Aaron Choulai: Place

The notes for Aaron Choulai’s Place (Sunnyside) speak of a band that the pianist led back in his native Australia that specialized in a “kind of klezmer-infused New Orleans sound.” Better that Choulai might have presented music with a similarly imaginative quality than the too-familiar postbop ensemble sound he offers up on his debut. There’s strong playing from all involved, including saxophonist Tim Ries and trumpeter Scott Wendholt, but nothing jumps forth to announce true distinction. A haunting piano and saxophone duet on “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” the album’s only standard tune, reveals Choulai’s lyrical gifts far greater than his own tunes do.