Leslie Pintchik: Quartets

Quartets is a hybrid five-channel SACD release, engineered and mixed by A. T. Michael MacDonald. It has the transparency of SACD, and the impeccably consistent wrap of surround sound for music done right.

The sound only matters because the music is strong. Leslie Pintchik is an intelligent, tasteful pianist who has carefully configured a complete, varied, nuanced album statement. She starts with her own tight trio (bassist/husband Scott Hardy, drummer Mark Dodge), and adds either percussionist Satoshi Takeishi (five tracks) or Steve Wilson (four). Wilson has become the alto/soprano counterpart of tenor saxophonist Chris Potter, in that he is a sideman who seems to be everywhere. No wonder. Like Potter, he has a gift for complementing the projects of others. Wilson’s signature luminous tone is perfect for Pintchik’s pensive ballad, “Private Moment.”

Pintchik’s compositions (such as “Not So Fast,” “Over Easy”) are clever in the best sense, subtly surprising because of their shifts and displacements. But her best attributes are her sensitivity with ballads and her creative reimagining of standards, strengths that often coincide. She even turns “Happy Days Are Here Again” into a ballad, with new dark harmonies. It is the saddest version of the song since Tierney Sutton’s. Leonard Bernstein’s “Somewhere” gets its emotional resonance from the way Pintchik parts with it so gradually, even reluctantly.

Thomas Conrad

Thomas Conrad has a BA from the University of Utah and an MA from the University of Iowa (where he attended the Writers Workshop). He taught English at Central State University in Ohio, then left the academic world for the private sector. His affiliation with publications such as JazzTimes, Stereophile, The New York City Jazz Record and DownBeat has enabled him to sustain active involvement in two of his passions: music and writing.