Monday, December 7, 2009

Pianist David Arner's Trio and Their Rechanneling of Porgy and Bess

David Arner has a pianistic fulminosity (it's a kind of abundance) that comes across with the substantial release Porgy/Bess Act 1 (CIMP). He is joined by the first-rank bass virtuoso Michael Bisio and the lightly subtle yet freely engaging drummer Jay Rosen.

In what will be a two-volume release, Mr. Arner takes inspiration from the Gershwin classic Porgy and Bess as well as the Miles Davis-Gil Evans rearrangement from the exceptional 1958 Columbia recording by that name. David Arner does not get involved with a literal rehashing of the score, nor does he take Gershwin themes as head-solo-head arrangements. Rather he and the trio react to the music as a springboard for four free improvisations. You will hear thematic interjections, sometimes in the whole cloth, sometimes as quilted fragments and chordal reminiscences, but all in the context of spontaneous recomposition.

Arner-Bisio-Rosen interact in quite subtle ways and the melodic-kinetic energies of Arner and Bisio are palpable. This is not as much an energy-surging exercise as a varied expressive dialogue. In David Arner we hear the techniques of modern improv piano as well as the harmonic-melodic tradition of the Gershwin and Davis-Evans eras but contextualized to his own ends. And he opens up a space that Michael Bisio and Jay Rosen enter into with open ears and inventive musical discourse.

This is music that takes attentive listening to assimilate. It is not entertaining; it is enlightening.

I would put this among the best piano trio recordings I've heard in this waning year. Arner is an artist of subtlety and depth. The trio is a multi-faceted musical force that gains newfound inspiration from classic sources without repeating the obvious. If only some of the repertoire-oriented aggregations were this creative!

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