It’s always nice to find something a little different when reviewing a new album, and a recent release from Big Bang Records (gotta love that name) fills the bill — but more later about that. Explorations is the latest from the David Leonhardt Trio, a group that – surprise – is led by pianist David Leonhardt, accompanied by drummer Alvester Garnett and bassist Matthew Parrish.
A piano-drums-bass trio has always been one of the most common forms around for a jazz group, but there’s nothing ordinary about the talent level here. All three guys are respected veterans, with extensive experience in a variety of venues, and judging by this album it’s obvious that they reach a high comfort level when playing together.
Getting back to that little surprise I mentioned before, it has to do with the mix of music offered here. Many of the jazz albums I review consist of a combination of jazz standards and new songs written by the members of the group — usually the leader. The dozen tracks here do include some new compositions by Leonhardt – and a couple of standards too – but there are also several pieces from the pop/rock world. Although this isn’t the first time I’ve seen that – or even the second – it’s still uncommon enough to be intriguing.
Leonhardt and his guys have included nice arrangements of songs like James Taylor’s “Fire And Rain,” which was probably my favorite here, along with Clapton’s “Sunshine Of Your Love,” and Elton John’s “Your Song.” They’ve even included George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” a nice trick in a guitar-less trio, but Leonhardt’s strong keyboard lead, paced by the fiery play of both Garnett and Parrish, is more than adequate to the task.
Jazz standards include “Yesterdays” and a very nice and whisper-soft interpretation of Horace Silver’s classic “Peace.” Among the new songs I especially enjoyed “Late Night Blues,” a driving piece with an insistent, almost addictive beat, and “The Dawn Over Morocco,” which manages to convey a mood evocative of its title.
A good collection of solid traditional jazz and something just a little different.