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Hal Galper: Let’s Call This That

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Hal Galper has staying power. Having helped fuel the flights of Chet Baker, Cannonball Adderley and Phil Woods, the Boston-area pianist has been out in front of his own no-nonsense trio for well over a decade. With drummer Steve Ellington, who’s been with the pianist since the trio’s inception, and bassist Jeff Johnson, on board for over six years, the Galper trio has congealed into one of the tightest groups of the day. Here, recalling the great Galper fivesome of the late 1970s with Michael and Randy Brecker, the pianist has added tenorist Gerry Bergonzi and trumpeter Tim Hagans for a muscular session of inspired contemporary improvisations.

The gritty Sam Rivers title track provides the date’s keynote. Taut yet loose, the neo-bop frame is a perfect jumping-off spot for spiraling solos by Bergonzi, Hagans and Galper. Jacki Byard’s “Diane’s Melody” is taken here as a melancholic dirge, thus serving as a poignant tribute to the tragically murdered pianist. David Friesen’s stop-start “Upon the Swing” opens as a pell-mell burner before passing through a portal where free-jazz arabesques unfold between punctuating reiterations of the melody. The moving balladic rendition of Bud Powell’s endurable “I’ll Keep On Loving You,” with only tenor sax, piano and bass, places Galper and the mighty Bergonzi at rhapsodic heights. In all, a richly diverse and deeply felt date worthy of close and repeated listenings.