“The more I read the papers, the less I comprehend,” wrote Ira Gershwin, lines so poignant to me. But heartfelt creative music is an antidote to darkness. Some tell us that a postmodern world demands abstract sound, sharp-edged art. I prefer song, music that can dance as a response to sorrow, melodies rueful in the face of hard realities. Song never grows old, and the artists on this disc understand and enact this truth. Michael Kanan, piano; Greg Ruggiero, guitar; Neal Miner, string bass, trust the melodies they create, and they respect the composers’ craft while making the most familiar material glisten. Their music balances feeling and technique, and their collective energies embrace the listener.
I first met Michael Kanan in 2010 through the good offices of the Swing Lion of Boston, Joel Press, and I was immediately tickled and moved by Michael’s sly sweet approach to the piano and to song. Like a master Japanese brush-painter, he implies, he hints, he whispers thoughts we need to hear, his phrases nudging us into surprises that gratify, his pauses and silences eloquent breaths. A little later, I heard Neal and Greg, each a great swinging lyricist, each creating singular melodic epigraphs no matter the context. The trio is the embodiment of fraternal love and understanding; the laughter the three friends share before they begin to play bubbles through the night’s performances. Michael, Neal, and Greg are quietly compelling soloists but they play for the comfort of the band. They know that music doesn’t have to abrade to catch our attention, that a two-chorus solo might be all that’s needed. Their music is never immodest or coarse; it never says LOOK AT US. And they offer us an airy grace; rueful melodies never become maudlin or heavy. When I hear this trio play, I go home feeling as if I’d been dipped in some sweet elixir, not available online.
I began by noting — through Ira Gershwin’s praise of lasting love — that there are experiences, like candid graceful music, that go beyond comprehension, that move into our hearts and stay there. This disc captures three masters of the art, offering all they feel and all they have learned to us. It is in the moment and of a particular moment, but it becomes timeless.
Here is a sample of what this trio does so well:
And here one can buy or download or sample, then purchase the music. Ideally, one could go where Michael is playing and press money into his hand, completing a circle of artist and grateful audience. But however you find your way to these sounds, they will uplift.
May your happiness increase!