George Cables – The George Cables Songbook – HighNote

George Cables – The George Cables Songbook – HighNote HCD7292, 72:47 ****:

A consistently inventive pianist informed by his own compositions.

(George Cables – piano; Essiet Essiet – bass tracks 1-11; Victor Lewis – drums tracks 1-11; Sarah Elizabeth Charles – vocals  tracks 3/4/6//7/8/11 ; Craig Handy – saxophones & flute tracks 3/4/6/8 ; Steven Kroon – percussion tracks 3/4/8)

There is an old English expression that runs along the lines: “good things come to those that wait”. Accordingly George Cables has passed this test and his current release The George Cables Songbook is a fitting testament to the worthiness exemplified by those words.

George Cables recently turned 72 years old, and while his career is almost equally divided between acting as a leader or a sideman, most of his significant recognition came in the latter category, especially the period he spent with Art Pepper from 1979 to 1982.

Since age has its privileges, Cables brings his elevated level of creativity to eleven of his own compositions, capably assisted by a group of creative partners. The session opens with “Traveling Lady” which is an inventive 6/8 tempo trio excursion which reaches back to a seemingly flamenco lilt.

“AKA Reggie” has a bluesy under-current captured in a soulful groove that gives Cables a chance to demonstrate his keyboard agility. Midway through the number bassist Essiet takes several choruses in his big-tone-fashion. The first of several Sarah Elizabeth Charles’ vocals pops up on “The Dark The Light” and she effectively conveys the rather stringent lyrics.

There is no doubt of the antecedents in “Melodious Funk”. While not imitating the master Thelonious Monk, all the references are there with the oblique chord changes and off kilter note structure. Bassist Essiet is again brought to the forefront with a strong solo. This is a satisfying excursion into Monk-influenced territory.

In his 1975 debut album Why Not, George Cables recorded “Think On Me” which has a couple of entry chords that are reminiscent of Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage. In this re-interpretation of the number, vocalist Sarah Elizabeth Charles uses the theme to construct lyrics that offer a cool rapport to the piano background. Cables has not restrained his probing instincts for the number.

In the jazz world, a contrafact is a musical composition consisting of a new melody overlaid on a familiar harmonic structure. Hence we have “Baby Steps” relationship to John Coltrane’s Giant Steps. An attentive listening will pick up the myriad of chord changes and blazing notes runs that are in play throughout the tune. Victor Lewis sparkles in the opening drum sequence to the composition. George Cables is a consistently inventive pianist informed by his own compositions.

TrackList: Traveling Lady; AKA Reggie; The Dark The Light; For Honey Lulu; Melodious Funk; Face The Consequences; Colors Of Light; Think On Me; The Mystery Of Monifa Brown; Baby Steps; Suite For Sweet Rita

—Pierre Giroux

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