As I’ve written recently, here, pianist-composer Joel Forrester creates music — tender, sensuous, surprising — always rewarding, never pre-cooked. I’ve been delighting in his recorded work for a decade now, but haven’t stirred myself to see him perform in a long time. But I did just that last Saturday, May 27, 2017, at his solo recital (12:30 – 3:30) at Cafe Loup , 105 W 13th St, New York (very close to the #1 train), (212) 255-4746. (And at the risk of sounding like a Yelp review, service — thank you, Byron! — was solicitous, and the food was fresh and nicely presented.)
The musical experiences Joel offered that afternoon were, to me, deeper than simple music. It felt as if he was a repertory company: each performance seemed its own small world — balancing on its own axis — and then gave way to the next. A gritty blues was followed by a romantic lament, then a rollicking saunter through an unknown landscape, then a dance from a traveling carnival . . . as you will hear for yourself.
Joel is always balancing strong rhythms and subtle melodies, creating his own shapes and changing those created by others. The range of his inspirations is amazingly broad: in the course of the afternoon’s recital for an admiring audience, he evoked and improvised on the blues and boogie woogie, Billie Holiday, George Gershwin, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Cole Porter, Meade Lux Lewis, James Joyce, hymns, the Beatles, and Sam Cooke.
STAGGER JOEL (his variations on an ancient folk blues with a similar name):
GG’S BLUES (paying affectionate tribute to Gershwin’s RHAPSODY):
IN THE RING (a bubbling dance):
BILLIE’S SOLITUDE (for Lady Day and Duke):
IT’S A BEAUTIFUL DAY (FOR THE MOMENT) (musing on Parisian weather):
CARAVAN (Juan Tizol reminding us that the journey, not the destination, matters):
WHITE BLUES (a title explained by Joel, as prelude):
SKIRMISH (with variant titles explained by the composer):
YOU SEND ME (Forrester meets Sam Cooke):
BACK IN BED (implicitly a paean to domestic bliss):
FATE (half-heard melodies care of Meade Lux Lewis):
There’s more to come from this afternoon at Cafe Loup, and more from Joel in his many guises, all restorative. He has many and various gigs: visit here.
May your happiness increase!