Bob Degen: Catability

Bob Degen is a subtle and original pianist who can be seen as standing between two usually distinct groups; the more elegant post-Powellites like Harris, Flanagan, or Evans, and the pianist/composers, from Elmo Hope and Herbie Nichols through Andrew Hill. His tunes are often very interesting structurally and harmonically, and he uses the trio as adventurously as Nichols. The simple device of comping through a drum solo is an example, likewise the many ways he alters the structures of the heads for blowing. At the same time he is quite happy with extended improvisations that most of the composer school wouldn’t consider, and his interesting lines are played with authority. Material ranges from “My Old Flame” to the conservatively free-form “MC.” Here as elsewhere Paul Bley is evoked, but Degen is that truly rare thing on today’s scene-his own man. If he’s escaped your attention before now, don’t miss Catability.