Mark Eisenman: Sweet and Lovely

Oscar Peterson may be Canada’s most famous jazz pianist, but that doesn’t mean he exerts a decisive influence on every mainstream keyboardist north of the 49th parallel. Mark Eisenman, a Toronto mainstay, is a died-in-the-wool bebopper who on Sweet & Lovely (Cornerstone) eschews the 40-yard dashes of Peterson-or, for that matter, bop piano architect Bud Powell. Eisenman has all the technical skill he needs to speak the musical language fluently but takes his time making his incisive points. It doesn’t hurt that the pianist is cradled by a superb rhythm team comprising Canadian bassist Pat Collins and veteran drummer Jimmy Cobb, one of the last of the classic hard-bop percussionists still going strong. Although the recording was a spur-of-the-moment event, quickly arranged when Cobb found himself in Toronto for a conference, the ad hoc trio sounds thoroughly practiced and assured as they romp through standards, Eisenman’s attractive originals and a couple of less often heard pieces, including Ellington’s lovely “Reflections in “D.”