In the Nature of Things
Leslie Pintchik

Released by Pintch Hard Records on 3/25/2014

“In the Nature of Things” is the fifth release by pianist and composer Leslie Pintchik. While the cover photos of melting snow and sunlit striated pebbles arranged on weathered wood suggest the natural world, in liner notes Pintchik credits the inspiration for the title to her co-players’ contributions to the realization of her musical intent. Her trio includes bassist Scott Hardy and drummer Michael Sarin. On six tracks, they are joined by Steve Wilson on alto and soprano saxophones, Ron Horton on trumpet and flügelhorn, and Satoshi Takeishi on percussion. Hardy is credited with the horn arrangements, and in his liner notes, Steve Futterman writes that the extended-group selections were inspired by Herbie Hancock’s 1968 album “Speak Like a Child.”

All tracks but one are Pintchik’s original compositions. Among the most impressive is “I’d Turn Back If I Were You,” a 12-bar blues with a tritone-rich melody, its title from the warning sign at the entrance to the haunted forest in “The Wizard of Oz.” The trio opens in a rollicking second-line groove with plenty of drums and percussion that includes tambourine. The horns add a counter-line with punchy chords and twittering tremolo. After she livens the turnaround with rhythmic hits on very low notes, Pintchik takes a bluesy solo that ends with thirds and chords that move chromatically.

Another striking original is “Terse Tune,” an up-tempo blues-based, angular minor-pentatonic melody with shifting meter and displaced accents, recalling both Thelonious Monk and film noir scores. In a skillful arrangement, the trumpet and soprano sax play sometimes with and sometimes against the piano. Sarin’s drumming behind the melody stands out, as does his solo turns with the two horn players, who improvise in counterpoint.

Unlike the rest of the album, the trio selection “There You Go” was recorded live. This is the album’s longest track, and all are intensely engaged. Pintchik takes an extensive improvised solo, developing catchy, bluesy motives rhythmically and melodically. Pintchik’s technique impresses not by dazzling with fast and flashy passages but by constant engagement throughout the twists and turns of her solo. Hardy accompanies with an expressive rising figure, and he and Sarin stretch out on inspired solos.

Played in a medium-fast trio setting, “Ready!” proclaims its title in a falling-third figure, while its ascending melody and chord changes create forward momentum. In her improvisation, Pintchik makes good use of a catchy up-and-down chromatic figure. Hardy’s solo emphasizes rhythm. In “Sparkle,” a chromatics-rich melody taken at a quick tempo, the horns join the piano on the head, playing a counter-melody in unison and two-part chords. On solos, Horton on flügelhorn is expressive, and Wilson on alto sax plays with an incisive sound, hard-edged but not harsh.

“With You in Mind” is a gently soaring melody with a four-note motif that sings its title. The arrangement has an orchestral sound, with quietly simmering samba-like groove with gentle rattling percussion. After Pintchik plays the head, she’s joined by horns that sometimes play the melody with her and other times play it by themselves in thirds. Pintchik solos, Wilson solos vibrantly on soprano sax, covering a lot of ground, and Hardy solos with an emphasis on rhythmic momentum.

“Ripe” is a short, pensive tune with shifting harmony that uses diminished chords, taken at a moderate pace. As with “With You in Mind,” the arrangement sounds orchestral, giving prominent roles to Horton on trumpet and Wilson on alto sax. On “Luscious,” Pintchik plays the melody, scalar and pentatonic in an irregular form that shifts in tonal center. The bright Latin-tinged groove is enhanced by Takeishi’s subtle percussion with gentle shake sounds

“I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face,” from “My Fair Lady” by Lerner & Lowe, is the only ballad as well as only non-original on the album. Pintchik’s quiet trio setting at medium tempo brings out the song’s conversational quality, as she smoothly shifts meters from triple to duple to fit the unvoiced lyrics. Hardy plays a key part with his expressive wide-ranging line that weaves around Pintchik’s as she plays the head and solos.

As well as the expert performances by Pintchik and her co-players, the high quality of the compositions and arrangements make “In the Nature of Things” easy to like.

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Virginia A. Schaefer