Dan Trudell Plays The Piano – The Dan Trudell Trio – self 58:07 ***:

(Dan Trudell – piano; Matt Wilson – drums; Joe Sanders – bass)

Mastery of the keyboard is no guarantee of success, unless it can be translated in a recognizable style that has audience appeal. That appears to be the conundrum faced by Dan Trudell as he launches his self-produced release entitled Dan Trudell Plays The Piano. Having anchored himself to the Hammond B-3 over the past few years, he is attempting to build an identity on the piano that might cut through the clutter of bright young pianists currently on today’s jazz scene.

Although this is not a working trio, Trudell and drummer Matt Wilson have known each other for a very long time, with bassist Joe Sanders  being the kind of player who can adapt to any musical situation. Working on a repertoire that combines some jazz tunes, popular music, and a couple of numbers from the Great American Songbook, the trio works hard to bring this potpourri to life.

The session opens with the Stevie Wonder hit “Isn’t She Lovely” with Trudell showing lots of ascending and descending block chords to fill the space, and then a couple of bars quoting Moonglow, followed by repeating block chords. Drummer Wilson does have a couple of interesting breaks and fills. The Duke Ellington classic “I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart” fares a little better, but the ascending/descending block chords reappear with much frequency. On the whole there is too much pounding and too little imagination.  Bassist Joe Sanders, however, acquits himself quite nicely on his solo effort.

To say that Ahmad Jamal’s version of Poinciana is ripped off on “That Old Black Magic” might be an overstatement, nevertheless all the elements of Jamal’s arrangement are there on close listening. Lerner and Loewe wrote “If Ever I Would Leave You” for the 1960 Broadway musical Camelot. Originally conceived as  a ballad, the trio offers an up-tempo arrangement which works surprising well with drummer Wilson pushing the group along with his tasty work. Horace Silver’s “Soulville” closes out the session and Trudell captures the blues tinged mood of the composition, staying away from some of the unfortunate piano traits exhibited in most of the other tracks. Bassist Sanders delivers an interesting arco solo, with drummer Wilson his usual dependable self. If Dan Trudell is interested in a follow-up trio session, it has to be more Oscar Peterson and less Peter Nero. [So far only available at Amazon on MP3…Ed.]

TrackList: Isn’t She Lovely; I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart; McCoy For Now; Jonesin’; That Old Black Magic; If Ever I Would Leave You; The Worth Of A Woman; Soulville

—Pierre Giroux