Jazz CD Reviews

Hal Galper Trio – Airegin Revisited – Origin Records

An animated and unique offering.

Published on December 25, 2012

Hal Galper Trio – Airegin Revisited – Origin Records

Hal Galper Trio – Airegin Revisited – Origin Records 82628, 68:12 ****: 

(Hal Galperpiano; Jeff Johnson – bass; John Bishop – drums)

Tempo Rubato is a musical term referring to expressive and rhythmic freedom by a slight speeding up and then slowing down of the tempo of a piece  at the discretion of the soloist. The Hal Galper Trio is the principal exponent of this musical style which is front and center of their newest release Airegin Revisited.

Hal Galper is a startling pianist, who was a post-bop stylist, now uses the rubato method with a percussive denseness to restructure recognizable tunes. As Galper indicates in the liner notes to this release: “for the most part we’re trying to play ‘free’ on structures, a way of playing developed during my six-year apprenticeship with Sam Rivers”.

The first offering is George Gershwin’s “Embraceable You” on which the trio builds a captivatingly uneven setting of color and tempos in a joyous fashion before acknowledging a brief traditional riff on the composition. Drummer John Bishop and bassist Jeff Johnson are an effective rhythm team who support the textural construct of Galper’s playing. Since he has developed an appreciation of Brazilian harmony, Galper uses this to perfect effect on “One Step Closer” with a nod to Erroll Garner in the process.

Galper will be 75 in 2013 and has been a leader of his own groups for over four decades.  In his early career as a sideman, he played with the likes of Phil Woods, Chet Baker, Cannonball Adderley and Sam Rivers. However it was in his time with Rivers that he broke out with his own style and on Rivers’ composition “Melancholia”, Galper gives his mentor his due.

Two long compositions dominate the closing cuts of the disc. First we have George Shearing’s bop ode “Conception”, and the other is Sonny Rollins’ “Airegin”, which as most jazz fans know is Nigeria spelled backwards. When Shearing first introduced the piece, he played it at a breakneck tempo. Later on in his career, he played the introduction at a slow pace and then picked it up after the first chorus to a swing beat. Galper chooses to offer it somewhere in-between and it is filled with fluid introspection along with Bishop showing he is a commanding drummer, and Jeff Johnson demonstrating he is a cleverly vibrant bassist. The trio’s version of the Rollins’ tune is a showpiece for the band’s expressive command of pace, tone, and texture as well as being fluently captivating.

This release is a deep dive into the rubato concept that the band plays with animation and uniqueness.

TrackList: Embraceable You; Ascendant; One Step Closer; Ambleside; Melancholia; Conception; Airegin

—Pierre Giroux

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