Solo-piano albums are usually the work of the most talented and audacious of pianists. Think Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, Cecil Taylor and Keith Jarrett. Or recent solo efforts from Vijay Iyer, Geri Allen, Fred Hersch and Craig Taborn. Or, now, the new Sunnyside release from the generally underappreciated Laszlo Gardony.
Clarity is actually Gardony’s second solo effort, the first being his interpretations of familiar jazz vehicles on the 1995 album Changing Standards. Clarity, by contrast, is 49 minutes of pure improvisation, broken into what Gardony views as “10 short stories building on each other.” Gardony went into a studio at the Berklee College of Music (where he is a longtime faculty member) on Oct. 25 thinking of his recently departed parents and hit the “record” button. “It was a very joyful, expansive but introspective session,” he recalls in a press release. “I sat down, felt really inspired, and one tune led to another.”
The resulting album is unusually intimate, as if we’re overhearing a great pianist’s most private musings from outside a practice-room door. The music is cathartic but celebratory more than somber, and Gardony’s blending of his European roots with jazz give it a feel akin to Jarrett’s solo work for ECM, particularly on such tracks as “Working Through (Clarity),” “Better Place” and “Resilient Joy.” But the album is best listened to as a unit. Beyond being an impressive addition to the history of solo jazz piano, it ranks with standout recent elegiac works from Kenny Werner and Dave Douglas. Let’s hope it helps get Gardony the recognition he deserves.