Kenny Werner: Unprotected Music

According to Bill Milkowski’s liner notes, pianist Werner, bassist Marc Johnson, and drummer Joey Baron found extra studio time at the end of another recording session and decided to let the tape roll for an album of their own. While this approach can offer rewards of spontaneity and discovery, it can also be dragged down by tedium and desultoriness. This album contains some of each.

“Vague Wanderings,” a delicate ballad, is one of the better cuts. In a Bill Evans-Keith Jarrett mood, the performance stays focused throughout. “Good Luck Horror,” a Monk-like ditty, also develops with a sense of direction, including a swinging groove and, near the end, spiraling piano lines. But “Prelude to a Tribute” and “Eighth Groove” ramble.

Werner is a sensitive pianist and the trio often takes its time getting into action. Maybe I’m an impatient listener, but I think certain performances would have benefited had the players plunged headlong instead of tiptoeing into the music.