Ben Waltzer Trio: One Hundred Dreams Ago

It’s not hard to pinpoint the classic pianists that Ben Waltzer respects-Ellington, Herbie Nichols, Monk, Wynton Kelly, among them-which is just to note that he has great taste. Waltzer has assimilated his influences and comes out with a sure identity of his own on One Hundred Dreams Ago (Fresh Sound New Talent). The opening punch of the first four tunes-all Waltzer originals-also announces his knack for crafting melodies that warrant repeated listens: “Time and I” sounds like a lost Nichols gem, while the waltz ballad “Smeenus Smiles” has a lilt that brings to mind Randy Weston’s triple-time masterpieces. That Strayhorn’s “U.M.M.G.” and Ellington’s title track sit so well alongside Waltzer’s own compositions is testament to the album’s consistency of tone as well as Waltzer’s artistic worth. The limber contributions of bassist Matt Penman and drummer Gerald Cleaver aren’t to be overlooked either.