The appeal of solo work to the jazz pianist surely lies in the challenge of playing all roles for all ears. From Morton and Monk to Tatum and Ellington, Flanagan and Jones to Jarrett and Bley, taking up this challenge has produced astonishing moments of musicality, with a range of dynamics, color and emotional shadings rivaling the largest ensembles. The intimacy of the solo recital-at least, outside the department store-seems to hallow and hush the environment. The level of engagement between performer and listener is somehow enhanced-which, it may be argued, gives the artist more freedom to abstract the music beyond “normal” bounds. Of the many tensions at the pianist’s fingertips, that between pulse and rubato is the one that brings out the vital breath of the music.
Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.