If sinking into total virtuoso piano work is a pastime, than Eugene Maslov’s When I Need to Smile (Mack Avenue MAC 1001; 42:27) may be just the thing for you. Russian star Maslov has a rich, cascading style which is both commanding and expressive-intense on demonstrative passages and gently musing on more romantic flights. This rare talent is augmented here by the excellent sidemen Eddie Gomez (bass) and Omar Hakim (drums). Together, this trio spins a complex meditative mood on “Living in the Past” through dark chord interplay and a lighter melody line, and a wistful romantic flight on “Here Comes Juliette,” which finds Maslov bouncing his phrases across walking bass and bounding drums in an expression of pure joy.
There are familiar tunes peppered among Maslov’s originals as well-a unique arrangement of Gershwin’s immortal “The Man I Love” is played as a stiff-fingered, upbeat marching tune, lending humor and emotion, before sweeping into the b-section on a meandering jazz walk. Likewise the trio’s read of Jobim’s “Dindi” is a revelation, calling upon a lighter color palette of fluttery piano, but with dramatic undertones.