NY Pianist David Meder returns to musical home

The David Meder Quartet Review

Last Friday evening at B Sharps Jazz Club inaugurated its first summer performance and gave its patrons an exciting sense of what the summer months will hold for music at the club.

For those in attendance, David Meder's arrival from the land of Big Dreams (New York City) was a delicious opening launch.

Meder is a pianist, graduate student, and part-time instructor at New York University (NYC) in New York City, who spent his formative years at Florida State University's College of Music, studying under the close supervision of Leon Anderson and Rodney Jordan.

In all senses, it was a welcome arrival home: for one, the club was full of supporters, friends, and interested patrons; for another, there was a comradely spirit of joyful reunion among the musicians that enhanced the aural experience of the audience.

In two sets, the first at 7pm, the other at 9pm, David Meder was joined by Leon Anderson on drums, Rodney Jordan on bass, Ricardo Pascal on tenor saxophone, and Avis Berry as vocalist.

This small combo came out in the opening tune of the night showing it would spare the audience nothing in the way of good music and good fun.

Its first number, "East of the Sun," began with mellow whiffs, yet it was the first demonstration of the night's main attraction: David Meder's sedulous piano style.

But it was the man on bass (Rodney Jordan) being showcased to such great and extended effect as he played a difficult set of movements with persuasive flow and enough focus to zap the energy of the sedentary crowd sipping its wine or chugging its Heineken that gave this number its lift.

In its second number, almost aptly titled "Untitled", David Meder played reflectively, but the tone itself had an amorphous quality; in other ways, it seemed forlorn.

If it could be gauged it had the tonal quality of portentous black-and-white films of despairing lovers, or Edgar Allen Poe's darkest work.

Otherwise, it showed off Meder's impressive finger work in its middle, and set this mood-driven piece off to its anti-climactic finish.

Perhaps the best part of the first set was the performance of "Cherokee" ---a tune covered by legends Charlie Parker and John Coltrane, respectively.

Why was this the best?

Here the quartet arrangement of Anderson, Rodney, Meder, and Pascal were in full control, in complete harmony, with a sound grasp of several complex musical ideas.

This was also where Pascal's sax imposed itself on the audience for an extended a bit of demanding play.

Several breaks were granted to sax; it shining and gleaming in every way, reflecting such obvious effort, a relishing of it, with a playful piano segueing itself in: two young musical talents escaping in the moment and enjoying its heady adrenaline.

The group continues with Branford Marsalis' "In the Crease." Again, this was a heavily sax-featured piece but Leon Anderson flashed a smile with some solid drumming.

In the next number, "Blues for the 29 Percent" by Jason Marsalis (in-kind marketing for the upcoming Jason Marsalis Vibes event, you say?) the group takes an urbane tone, with Rodney Jordan adding effect.

The tempo is especially fierce as this number glides in and out of striking chords with panache.

Finally, Leon Anderson is permitted to show the audience (if they hadn't known) why his drum sticks aren't made for chop -suey. The first set ends exceptionally well.

The second set begins with a duet between piano and sax, in another David Meder composition, "This Road Leads No Where."

Then comes a charming surprise: Ms. Avis Berry. Many great singers have covered this Great American Songbook classic, but Berry added her own silky-sass vocals to this great Harold Arlen ---who was regrettably dismissed as a Hollywood lyricist---number: "That Old Black Magic."

Between her rendition and the sax groove, the performance wowed the audience.

But above all, it was the interaction between the two ---not Billie Holiday and Prez worthy---yet nonetheless energetic and engaging, that sealed the deal. And the whole affair ended with a brooding yet elegant piece "Elegy" by David Meder.

As the professional arrival, or coming of age, of a pianist who is not effete, yet not hard-swinging, but poised, playful, reflective, serious, and especially handsome in his style and range, the Meder performance will strike all as memorable and very good.

The summer at B Sharps is off to a dashing start.

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Chris Timmons