Pianist Hal Galper has been on the jazz scene for decades, yet is not a household name, despite some 30 albums of his own, and a long history of playing with Phil Woods and others. More’s the pity, as he continues to take chances with his music. He brought his working trio of Jeff Johnson on bass and John Bishop on drums to University of Louisville’s Bird Recital Hall on November 1. Most of the material was from his 2013 Origin Records release, Airegin Revisited, and showcased his penchant for shifting tempos (playing in rubato). The old Sinatra torch song, “Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry,” from the trio’s 2011 Origin release Trip the Light Fantastic, was perhaps the song which most closely adhered to the classic piano trio concept, with subtle brushwork by Bishop. John Taylor’s “Ambleside,” a waltz from the current release, slowly coalesced from its virtually freestyle opening. Galper played early on in his career with Sam Rivers, and referred to him as a mentor and influence in his introduction to Rivers’ “Melancholia.” In a more traditional vein, Galper said that the first jazz record he heard was by George Shearing, whose “Conception” featured a bass solo before a spirited piano/drums exchange which led to Bishop’s only solo of the night (although even his accompaniment was usually tastefully busy). They closed with their extrapolations on Sonny Rollins’ classic title track, “Airegin,” introduced by Johnson’s bowed solo, with Bishop adding colors on cymbals, leading to some freeform trio playing before the musicians settled into the theme, with Johnson changing from arco to pizzicato. The music then moved deeper into space, with Galper keeping his left hand on the keys while plucking the piano strings with his right hand. At 75, Galper is clearly looking forward as he pursues his muse.
Endangered Species: The Music of Wayne Shorter (Motéma MTM-120, www.motema.com)
Arranger and trumpeter David Weiss leads a 12-piece ensemble live at Dizzy Gillespie’s Club Coca-Cola at Jazz at Lincoln Center for this dynamic tribute to ever-youthful elder statesman Wayne Shorter. Space doesn’t permit a full personnel listing, but among the players are Marcus and E.J. Strickland, Ravi Coltrane, and Geri Allen. Perhaps the best example of Weiss’ arranging skill is “Fall,” originally recorded by Shorter on Miles Davis’ Nefertiti. Listening to the two versions back-to-back, Davis’ lean, muscular quintet approach is complemented by the warm, full sound of the big band. The only non-Shorter composition is Weiss’ “The Turning Gate,” based on a segment from Shorter’s “Joy Rider.” Marcus Strickland’s soprano evokes Shorter well on this piece. The press release notes that Weiss’ goal is “. . . to embellish and orchestrate until people can, ‘even more fully appreciate the depth and beauty of the writing . . . ‘” By taking the works of a composer best known for writing for smaller bands, Weiss has succeeded in shedding new light on the writing skills of Wayne Shorter.
The University of Louisville Jazz Ensemble I, led by John La Barbera, will present a special holiday concert on Tuesday, December 17 at 8:00 p.m. with guests the Ladies of Liberty, Dan Weeks , and Chad Sloan . As circulated by U of L, here is more information (I hope they throw in some Hanukkah music as well): “A special Christmas concert featuring the music from the Glenn Miller Orchestra’s recording In The Christmas Mood. The recording, co-produced and arranged by faculty member John La Barbera, has sold over 2 million copies. John’s concept was to create a recording that Glenn himself would have made after returning from the war. Some of the most famous, pre-1950s compositions were chosen to be arranged and orchestrated in the unique Glenn Miller style, including “White Christmas,” “Sleigh Ride,” “The Christmas Song.” Tickets may be purchased in advance (502-852-6907) or at the door. $25 general admission,$5 for students with ID.