Yaron Gershovsky is no stranger to the art of versatility. Over the course of four decades, while serving as pianist and musical director for the Manhattan Transfer, he’s delivered the goods in other disparate settings, working with jazz icons like Pharoah Sanders and Wayne Shorter, backing dearly departed folk bard Richie Havens, writing music for television, and bringing his talents to the fore on Broadway. He transitions from one world to another with remarkable ease, and that unusual fluidity serves as the through-line for this album.
Adjusting style, format, and personnel as he goes, Gershovsky stitches together a program that’s big on variety. He swings his way into the set in an acoustic trio, with bassist Boris Kozlov and drummer Cliff Almond, on “Northern Lights”; offers smoother suggestions with a title track colored by his keyboard work and the contributions of multi-reedist David Mann (on alto flute), electric bassist Will Lee, and drummer Clint de Ganon; puts Aubrey Johnson’s entrancing vocals out front for a hypnotic take on “Scarborough Fair” that pairs Kozlov with drummer Ross Pederson; features Alex Sipiagin’s muted trumpet on balladic beauty “Show Me the Way”; and flies solo for a look at “The Lonely Tree,” a folk find that proves marvelously mutable.
Always extending his reach, Gershovsky keeps coming through with sophisticated originals and artful arrangements while alternating rhythm sections and bringing vocals in and out of the picture. “What She Said” dances a dignified waltz. “Só Danço Samba,” showcasing Johnson’s pliant pipes, shines in the brilliant light of Brazil. “Awakening” attracts notice with its own brand of fusion. And a spruced-up “I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin,’” with a harmonizing group of Aubrey Johnsons in play, serves as a finale with serious flair. Suffused with surprise(s), Transitions lives up to expectations.