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Harold Danko: Nightscapes

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Nighttime, with its allusions to romantic couplings (“You and the Night and the Music”) and romantic breakups (“The Night We Called It a Day”) to meditations on the vagaries of the human condition (“In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning”), continues to grip our psyches even as we attempt to banish it through 24-hour financial markets, 24-hour grocery stores and nonstop television. On Nightscapes pianist Harold Danko has taken the subject and spun it into a hauntingly beautiful collection of eight lambent vignettes.

The range of moods, while hinted at in programmatic titles such as “First Dream,” “Fourth Hour” and “Insomnique,” is subtle yet markedly varied. In “Weightless,” for example, we swim in warm sonorities seamlessly combined from Danko’s lyric pianistics, Rich Perry’s gently tumbling tenor, Scott Colley’s pillowed bass steps and Jeff Hirshfield’s sandman sprinklings. In contrast, “The Idea Loop,” perhaps a recurring dream motif, surges with a velveteen edge at an insistent yet swirling tempo spiced by Danko’s jabbing pointillism.

Danko’s nightscapes are compelling in their atmospherics as well as in their musicality. Part of that success stems from the fact that the Danko Quartet has enjoyed a productive eight-year tenure that includes four previous dates for SteepleChase. Here, the pianist and his colleagues create a richly moody noirish suite that haunts the imagination. In the process, it also recaptures the mysterious and evocative nature of night.