Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bob Nell, Pianist, Puts One Through with "Soft & Bronze"

Those who read my blogs know that I cover many of the very new releases but also think it worthwhile to cover things that might be a few years young, when there is something good about them to contemplate and dig. And so it is that, in the course of interviewing bassist Michael Bisio for All About Jazz ( he mentioned his long association and friendship with Montana/Pacific Coast pianist Bob Nell. One thing led to another and I grabbed one of Michael's earlier CDs with Bob Nell on it (Covert Choreography, recently reviewed on the Gapplegate Guitar and Bass blog site, see link on this page), the result of which Bob Nell very graciously sent me a copy of his 2002 CD Soft & Bronze (Plechmo 4000).

I listened, found myself rather entranced with the music, and so step in this morning with a review posting on it. The Michael Bisio Cadence Jazz CD that I reviewed on the other blog had some wonderful Bob Nell pianism in a pretty outside vein. Soft & Bronze gives you a slightly different side. It's a classic piano trio configuration, with Bob, the formidable Mr. Bisio again on bass, and Brad Edwards on a churningly swinging set of drums.

It's a joyous romp through Nell's very hip originals. I am reminded listening to this one of the late Don Pullen. Not that Bob sounds like him, but they both share a rare ability to get profound musicality out of a changes-based postbop/nubop framework as well as the more outside excursions. Bob also can stay in a middle ground of Tyner-esque brightness and power with equal effectiveness.

This is a pianist that carries the full and venerable tradition of jazz piano on his shoulders. He can (and does) harness tradition's influence as an expressive means to his own musical ends. He has the touch and drive of the best of the classic players, but (and this is an important but) he speaks the language without plagiarizing the sentences, so to speak. Sometimes I hear a little Elmo Hope in there, too, and damned if I don't like to hear that!! Mr. Bisio sounds fabulous with Bob and Mr. Edwards is right there with them. A piano trio disk of brilliance, drive and complete mastery. Thank you, Bob! If you've missed this one, track it down by all means.

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