Be Not So Long to Speak
At 28, Bobby Avey is already an auspicious artist. He won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Composers Competition in 2011. He leveraged a Chamber Music America grant to travel to Haiti as research for his hour-long suite based on that country’s vodou ceremonies, and performed with Miguel Zenón and Ben Monder assisting the trio he has led since 2005. He recorded an album of improvised classical music duets, Vienna Dialogues, with saxophonist Dave Liebman.
Now comes Avey’s first solo-piano record, which includes seven originals and brilliant deconstructions of Thriller-era Michael Jackson (“P.Y.T.”) and Hoagy Carmichael (“Stardust”). His styling is ostentatiously diverse yet well integrated, mixing the ripened melancholy of Brad Mehldau with the poker-faced passion of Vijay Iyer, and expansive enough to encompass the minimalism of Erik Satie and the polytonality of Cecil Taylor. Avey is a composer who wants to evoke moods. “Our Fortune Is Running Out of Breath” is a dispiriting opener framed by enervating chords, whereas “Isolation of Rain” is a tone poem that will warm your heart (despite its title).
Be Not So Long to Speak suffers only in comparison to the high bar of Avey’s past accomplishments. The two most ambitious works here, “Late November” and “Time Unfolding,” are eclipsed by the band renditions on A New Face (2010). Together since college, Avey’s rhythm section knows his idiosyncrasies, and the urgency of drummer Jordan Pearlson can be an especially valuable component of his sound. That said, this solo accounting will hardly deter Avey’s steady ascent up the ranks of jazz pianists.