David Lopato, solo piano – Many Moons – Global Coolant

by | Mar 27, 2011 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

David Lopato, solo piano – Many Moons – Global Coolant 01, 64:50 ***:

New York City pianist David Lopato has performed with a number of artists from Dave Liebman to Dewey Redman; has worked in theater and music education; is an author and has studied both electronic and Javanese music. That is an eclectic background but even more eclectic is Lopato’s 64-minute piano solo release, Many Moons, which creatively shifts from stride piano to bluegrass and from bebop to African folk traditions.

Lopato explains in his liner notes his 12 original pieces are a distillation of three decades of writing and his personal life, and the tracks provide intriguing auditory snapshots of his experiences, biography and influences. Lopato begins in an upbeat manner with the double entendre-titled “Swing Trades,” which thematically alludes to both stock market machinations as well as a rolling refrain which connects swing music with a deeper New Orleans groove. Another jumped-up cut is the brief bluegrass-tinted interlude, “Fly Brook,” which would not be out of place on a country-jazz project: think Hank Garland or early George Winston. A richer statement darts through the bebop-buttressed “Reflexology,” which has a light touch similar to Dave Brubeck or Errol Garner. It is highlighted by some enthusiastic higher-key runs.

Lopato also shows a flair for quieter emotional tunes. “Inside You” has a pensive, live-in-the-studio feel and flows nicely and effortlessly, although it seems a bit dry in spots. Apparently, though, love gone sour offers Lopato further fertile thoughts, since “Unrequited Love” has greater complexity and incorporates a broader range of intensity, from dissonance to fluid time signatures.

Lopato does equally well with his personality sketches. The meditative “Brooklyn” brings to life the New York burg where Lopato grew up, while it also summarizes Lopato’s contemplations on a place in time which is now suffused with nostalgia and evaporating memories. More manic is the programmatic tune “The Big Bad Wolf Ain’t So Bad After All,” about dinner events with Lopato’s mother, and which energetically invokes Willie “The Lion” Smith’s gregarious Harlem stride. Lopato states there is a longer unedited version complete with a verbal rap. Hopefully that rendition will be issued someday. The album’s most heartfelt cut is “Wishing Willie Well,” a sensitive ballad concerning the day when Lopato and his wife had a pending adoption snatched away from them.

Lopato’s extensive inspirations can be heard throughout but are most noticeable during the modernistic “Piano Roll I,” which combines Conlon Nancarrow’s player piano concepts with John Cage’s prepared piano ideas. The result is a dazzling if difficult excursion which sits firmly in the avant-garde idiom and unfortunately stands at odds with the album’s other traditional-minded material. While this homage to two masterful musicians is accomplished, its position amongst the other 11 pieces comes as a sonic shock. Lopato ends with the aptly-inscribed “Peace March,” a positivistic hope-filled section from a lengthier suite which centers on the tragedy and the aftermath of 9/11.  

1. Swing Trades
2. Inside You
3. Fly Brook
4. Unrequited Love
5. No Visa
6. Reflexology
7. Brooklyn
8. The Big Bad Wolf Ain’t So Bad After All
9. Wishing Willie Well
10. African Village
11. Piano Roll I
12. Peace March

— Doug Simpson

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