Aaron Diehl – The Bespoke Man’s Narrative – Mack Avenue Records MAC 1086, 63:55 ****:
(Aaron Diehl – piano; David Wong – bass; Rodney Green – drums; Warren Wolf – vibraphone on 1-4, 6-7 & 10)
Aaron Diehl is the real deal. At twenty- six years of age, he demonstrates the meaning of “bespoke” in this debut recording, as he and his cohorts offer a custom made session of originals and covers that belie the age of the members of the group.
Capitalizing on the fact that Diehl won First place in the 2011 Cole Porter Fellowship in Jazz Competition of the American Pianists Association, he recognized that he should use the opportunity to develop his musical ideas using the Modern Jazz Quartet template. This session does not so much ape the MJQ, as simply use its structure to explore the group’s own ensemble sound. Although a piece such as Milt Jackson’s “The Cylinder” puts forward realistically the MJQ’s use of open spaces and intricate interplay, the other offerings are more reflective of what the group is trying to accomplish in their own right.
In addition to the previously mentioned track, the other quartet cuts, such as “Moonlight In Vermont” and “Stop And Go,” evidence a group interchange that may be unplanned but certainly not unstructured and undoubtedly has plentiful harmonic complexity. It is clear that Warren Wolf is a vibes player with strong ideas and a fluid style, thereby adding to the group dynamic. Coupled with Diehl’s precise lyricism, the result is a communal sense of promise.
When Diehl performs in a trio format on pieces such as “Single Petal Of A Rose”, “Le Tombeau De Couperin” and “Bess, You Is My Woman Now”, a pianist emerges that is not only elegantly instinctive, but also exact and expressive with an attraction for harmonic honesty. Supporting him throughout is bassist David Wong who has a resonant style, and drummer Rodney Green who flashes his own path.
As a debut release, a listener could not ask for more.
TrackList: Prologue; Generation Y; Blue Nude; Moonlight In Vermont; Single Petal Of A Rose; The Cylinder; Stop And Go; Le Tombeau De Couperin; Bess, You Is My Woman Now; Epilogue