The music I heard and captured at Michael Kanan’s piano soiree at Sofia’s Ristorante (in the Hotel Edison, 211 West 46th Street, New York City) on Dec. 4, 2010, so captivated me that I decided to post another half-dozen performances from that splendid night.
The participants were Larry Ham, Pete Malinverni, Tardo Hammer, and Michael, piano; Neal Miner, bass; Eliot Zigmund, drums. What continues to fascinate me is the wide emotional range in these performances — from spiky to tender, from witty to rhapsodic. Although these players know the traditions deeply and empathically, this wasn’t a repertory evening, with the ghosts of (say) Nat Cole, Bud Powell, Fats Waller, McCoy Tyner . . . etc., being feted. It was enthralling to hear these men at the piano and the warm-hearted playing of Neal and Eliot — a gathering of friends.
When I met Michael about a week later (he was playing alongside Dan Block at the Brooklyn Lyceum) I complimented him on his format for the evening, where each of the four pianists played two leisurely selections, then got off the bench for the next player. I thought it went a long way in preventing the usual set-shaping that musicians fall into, but Michael pointed out one of his aims (fully realized) that I hadn’t consciously absorbed. I had seen the other players paying close attention while they were members of the listening audience — but Michael had more than this in mind: that each player would be influenced (subliminally or directly) by what his colleagues had played — making the evening an organic artistic whole rather than simply a round-robin.
It worked — and it transcended my already high expectations. Here are a half-dozen more opportunities to savor this evening.
Tardo Hammer, sure-footed yet loving risks, began the evening with an individualistic reading of Gigi Gryce’s MINORITY (a composition whose title I had to ask):
Pete Malinverni (“It’s melody, man!”) embarked on a pair of standards, at once tenderly reverent and quietly, subversively, taking them apart from inside. Here’s I REMEMBER YOU:
And a romantic MY IDEAL:
Michael Kanan continued with two delicious explorations: on ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE, he didn’t presume to imitate Art Tatum, but I swear I keep waiting for Ben Webster to join in. Then he turned it into a spiky BLUE SKIES. I wonder how audible the woman who wanted to sing along is (although she had a pleasant enough voice, she was standing — by my lights — far too close). Youth must be served, I suppose:
And here’s Michael’s controlled but enthusiastic reading of LET’S FALL IN LOVE:
And we’ll let have Larry Ham lovingly have the last word with CLOSE ENOUGH FOR LOVE:
This was a wholly gratifying jazz evening: I hope Michael can arrange piano soirees on a regular basis!