Twenty-eight-year-old pianist Dave Meder is a young man with prodigious technique and serious ambitions. In the press release accompanying this originals-heavy debut recording, he states, “Philosophically what I’m after is the lofty goal of being able to do everything.” But Meder does have the credibility, both academically and on the street, to support his dreams. The youngest professor currently at the University of North Texas College of Music, and a finalist for the 2019 Cole Porter Fellowship of the American Pianists Association, he’s held down church gigs in the Bronx and survived cutting contests in Manhattan while studying with Kenny Barron, Jean-Michel Pilc, and Fred Hersch, among others.
On Passage, Meder and his trio of bassist Tamir Shmerling and drummer Kush Abadey (joined by Chris Potter and Miguel Zenón on one track each) sail through diverse tempos and themes in a manner reminiscent of Oscar Peterson. The pianist’s fingers run circles around his musicians, seeming to leave lofty chemtrail-like spirals in the air.
Meder is certainly more of the ethereal/cerebral than the funky/grooving schools of jazz, and his compositions are often as intellectual as his skillset is muscular. “Elegy,” with
Potter, is grand and dreamlike, with a touch of soul. “For Wayne” also ranks high on the sensitivity scale, dollops of cymbal trills and piano caresses leading to eventual crescendo. The groove-fortified “The Old Rugged Cross” comes across as rote, but Monk’s “Work” falls in line, the pianist plonking gracefully. All in all, an impressive first showing by a musician of great promise.