When I taught freshman composition, some of my best students had grown up speaking a language not English. They were often far more perceptive than the local talent whose radius of exploration was fifty miles. But the “ESL” crew occasionally had trouble with English idioms that native speakers take for granted. One, memorably, was “not only but also,” and perhaps its apparent negation becoming affirmation was too much to digest at first.
While I was listening to pianist-composer Roberta Piket’s new CD, WEST COAST TRIO, the expression came back as a perfect way to describe her work, a great compliment.
If you don’t know Roberta’s work, you will want to scamper ahead to the video to hear it; she is also, not surprisingly, quietly eloquent about how she perceives what she does, and where she’s come from: here is a recent interview.
But to the music: in a landscape of artists who equate modernism with abstraction, Roberta always remembers that the heart of music is song, so her work, even when she is exploring, is always melodic and soulful, free from cliche, welcoming us in. And whatever meter or tempo she chooses, her music has the pulse of a heartbeat. To some, swinging improvisation is no longer relevant. From the first measures of MENTOR, the first song on the disc, I was bobbing my head: for me, very good evidence of enjoyment. The result can be innovative or technically sophisticated, but it’s mobile and warm, never chilly.
Here is the behind-the-scenes look at the session, extremely valuable because not only does it provide a tasting menu of the music, but also we see and hear Roberta speaking about it:
and here you can listen to longer samples of the music, download it, or purchase the actual disc — the last of which I recommend because Thirteenth Note Records’ products are superb, and Bob Bernotas’ liner notes equally so.
One of the other things to love about this CD is it shows off Roberta’s wide range of musical affections: standards by Legrand, Rodgers, and Donaldson (MY BUDDY is aimed right at our hearts), compositions by Shearing, Corea, Hicks, and two originals by Roberta. Beautiful recorded sound and beautiful playing by Joe La Barbera, drums; Darek Olszkiewicz, string bass, with telling cameo appearances by Larry Koonse, guitar; Billy Mintz, drums. There’s great variety: some performances seem dreamy, musing; others are superb dance music.
When I’d played the disc the first time, I wanted to hear it again. You will, too.
May your happiness increase!