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Hal Galper/Jeff Johnson/John Bishop: Furious Rubato

I thought I knew something about Hal Galper. I did not know Hal Galper at all. Hal Galper has evolved.

In the liner notes he says that he has become fascinated with rubato-bending and shaping tempo to enhance expression. He has been practicing “sporadically at … unpredictable times of the day or night” for six years, exploring this concept. Often, for artists, specific devices are less important in themselves than as paths to new creativity. Galper’s investigation of rubato has liberated his piano trio, sprung it loose from time. This album contains the most complex, daring, exhilarating music of Galper’s career.

On the opening “Milestones,” the famous tune is there, but only one among many huge swirling forms. Galper says the piece is still “in tempo but not the basic tempo.” It surges and recedes in free form, impossible to anticipate yet coherent in its own logic. “Naima” is revealed with such slow yearning it sometimes nearly dies away but then flows out again. “Miles Ahead” is another galaxy containing the song somewhere among all the other notes like stars.

One reason this project is successful is that bassist Jeff Johnson and drummer John Bishop respond so creatively to the challenge of playing in “tempo but not the basic tempo.”

The achievement of Furious Rubato is that it sounds like nothing else yet it makes sense.

Originally Published