Roger Davidson: Ten to Twelve

The story of this album starts with the late Helen Keane, whose place in jazz history is secure as the producer and manager of Bill Evans. In 1987, she heard classical pianist/composer Roger Davidson performing one of his own concert pieces and encouraged him to play jazz. Four years later, in 1991, Keane produced these 11 tracks, with bassist David Finck and drummer David Ratajczak. Although Davidson has since released other jazz recordings, this first one got “tucked away” until now.

Keane was right. Davidson is an impeccable player, and Finck and Ratajczak make sure that he swings. His composer’s mind creates highly original interpretations of jazz standards, and he writes some credible jazz statements of his own. “Autumn Leaves” is twice as long as any track here because it is such a comprehensive examination, and Davidson finds a different meaning in each chorus. “I Should Care” is also a very personal reading, faster and harder than expected.

In fact, everything Davidson does is hard with percussive assertion, even his own wistful ballads. This is a thoroughly satisfying recital, and one reason is the vivid recorded sound by Keane and engineer Ron Allaire. The world would be a better place if Helen Keane had been able to achieve sound like this for Bill Evans.