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Kenny Werner: The Space (Pirouet)

Review of solo album by the pianist

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Cover of Kenny Werner album The Space
Cover of Kenny Werner album The Space

Pianist Kenny Werner named The Space—a solo piano recording—after a concept in his celebrated musical-psychospiritual book Effortless Mastery. A few seconds of its opening 16-minute title track make clear that he also uses the term in a practical sense. The piece uses so much internal space that it often reads as a study in tone decay. Rhythmic momentum takes about five minutes to build, and those five minutes are a tough listen.

From there, however, The Space seems to change the subject entirely. Amorphous abstraction gives way to a deliriously sprightly take on Keith Jarrett’s “Encore from Tokyo” that sounds more like Bud Powell’s “Parisian Thoroughfare” in terms of both gait (particularly odd, since Jarrett played the song nearly as ethereally as Werner plays “The Space”) and richness of ideas. The album never quite replicates that rhythmic zing. Still, “If I Should Lose You” comes close; Werner’s “Fifth Movement” is a quirky gavotte but a gavotte nonetheless; and saxophonist (and Pirouet Records artistic director) Jason Seizer’s “Taro” is a little vague harmonically, but its swing is firm. (Another Seizer composition, “Kiyoko,” is an exquisite ballad, but also has a rhythmic constant.)

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