In the Nature of Things-- Leslie Pintchik

One would have difficulty thinking of a jazz pianist with a lighter, more pristine touch than that of Leslie Pintchik. The pianist's sound lends itself well to her eight distinctive originals plus one standard on this CD, especially the six tracks featuring the counter-melodies of bassist Scott Hardy's horn arrangements that were inspired by the subtle beauty of those on Herbie Hancock's 1988 Speak Like a Child album. Pintchik's fourth CD is anchored by her regular quartet that includes Hardy, drummer Michael Sarin, and percussionist Satoshi Takeishi, along with saxophonist Steve Wilson and trumpeter Ron Horton, all veterans of the New York jazz scene. As Pintchik properly notes, "What great good luck to live in a city where I've been able to meet and play with such creative, responsive musicians, who consistently bring so much to the table." Their rapport with the leader and understanding of her music--whether intimate or urgent--make this a most notable and satisfying release.

The wafting theme of "With You In Mind" as played by Pintchik, and the complementary harmonies from the horns, give this piece a floating buoyant air that is indeed reminiscent of Hancock's "Speak Like a Child" (albeit with different instrumentation). The solos vary from Pintchik's assured delicacy to Wilson's more intense assertions on soprano. Hardy's bass improv possesses a focused and moving lyricism that sums up this track's appeal. The song title "I'd Turn Back If I Were You" comes from the entry to the Haunted Forest in The Wizard of Oz, but if the listener here obeyed then he or she would miss the New Orleans second-line pulse and an inviting lighthearted melody punctuated by a few ominously struck piano notes. It's Pintchik all the way in a dancing groove bolstered by the ministrations of Hardy and Sarin, and the occasional funky horn shout outs. Pintchik's graceful reading of "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face," coupled with Hardy's intricate patterns, make for a rewarding contrast, which continues on for the leader's yearning and refined statement, nourished by Sarin's tasteful and impeccable accentuations. Hardy's own turn is emotionally fulfilling.

Hardy's attractive horn parts elevate the inviting "Luscious," and again the affinity between pianist, bassist, and drummer is exemplary, as Pintchik flutters like a butterfly through a "luscious" solo. Wilson's warm and rich soprano sound makes the message of his lucid and spirited evaluation impossible to resist, and Hardy makes the most of his brief time in the spotlight. "Sparkle" has an effervescent theme, another instance of Pintchik gliding above Hardy's effectively insinuating horn motifs until she moves into a mildly swinging solo. Horton's tartly compelling exploration follows, as does Wilson's ardently determined probings. Sarin bursts forth with artful vigor prior to the reprise. The sparse off-kilter line of "Terse Tune" is elaborated upon by Pintchik, Horton, and Wilson in "terse," but animated, alternating solo sequences. Preceding the reprise this imaginative arrangement finds the horns engaging one another in swirling dialogue, and Sarin and Takeishi doing likewise.

"Ripe" is a lovely waltzing ballad with a subdued Latin tinge, the theme shared by Horton's flugelhorn and Wilson's alto. A heartwarmingly expressive Horton solo is succeeded by the either biting or swaying phrasings of Wilson's. Pintchik casts a spell in her extended improv, with her appealingly tender tone and generous lyrical development. The enchanting samba "Ready!" has an inherent ebb and flow, as Hardy's resonating bass lines mesh beneficially with Sarin's hyperactive, but not overwhelming drum formulations. Pintchik and Hardy construct solos of storytelling clarity and grandeur. The closing "There You Go" is the only non-studio selection, recorded live at the Shandelee Music Festival in New York. It finds Pintchik, Hardy, and Sarin in tight cohesion as usual, centered on a three-note Thelonious Monk-like phrase motivated by the tune's title. The up-tempo drive and momentum is maintained zestfully both in the trio's interaction and the individual solos, with Pintchik's unwavering in its freshness, Hardy's soulful and profound, and Sarin's skillfully thematic and multicolored.

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Scott Albin