George Cables – My Muse – High Note HCD 7244, 61:18 ****½:
(George Cables, piano; Essiett Essiett, bass; Victor Lewis, drums)
There have been several jazz CDs in the last year honoring the wives/partners of elder jazz statesman,( i.e. Curtis Fuller’s I Will Tell Her, and The Story of Cathy and Me). The latest of these heartfelt tributes is pianist George Cables’ My Muse. It is dedicated to Helen Wray, George’s soul mate and partner for 28 years. After helping George with his own serious health issues, Helen passed away Nov. 7, 2010 from pancreatic cancer.
Cables brings over four decades as the consummate piano accompanist to saxophonists Joe Henderson, Dexter Gordon, and Art Pepper as well as trumpeter, Freddie Hubbard. Each stay was lengthy, at least three years. Pepper called Cables his all time favorite pianist.
Three of the tracks on My Muse (“Lullaby”, “Helen’s Song”, and “My Muse”) are among those to be treasured as they help bring into focus those in our own lives that give meaning to our existence. Listening to My Muse, you can tell why Cables has always been a first choice accompanist, when he is not recording as a leader. With over 25 albums under his own name, Cables can cover the gamut of piano jazz expression ranging from post bop to the blues with a healthy helping of improvisational explorations.
“Lullaby” opens the CD with a sublime gentle touch and tender expression. Played gently, it is a moving beginning to what follows. “You’re My Everything” is the first of several standards that accompany Cables’ compositions. The trio is in full sync as Victor Lewis prods the tempo, while bassist Essiett’s steady bass gets center stage mid-track. McCoy Tyner’s “You Taught My Heart to Sing” is inspiring and Cables provides Sammy Cahn’s lyrics in the liner notes. (“The memory of you will last my whole life through, you’re all I keep remembering. You taught my heart to sing” certainly tells it all as George pours out his heart for Helen.) Essiett’s extended bass solo wraps the sweet memory package with a bow…
“Helen’s Song” goes back a long way and has been covered by many jazz artists such as Bud Shank, Frank Morgan, and Winard Harper. It was often requested during Cables concerts. Its catchy melody sneaks up on you and its theme is memorable and insistent. The title track follows and its playful chords are mated with Victor Lewis’ rhythmic stick work.
Another Cables original is “But He Knows” and refers by George to all we don’t know, and better left to a higher power. Other winning standards that get the Cables touch include “My Old Flame” and the Gershwin’s “I Love You Porgy.”
It is great to have Cables back in good health so he can properly express with tender passion his love for his dear departed soul mate. We’re the lucky recipients of his inspirational piano musings.
TrackList: Lullaby, You’re My Everything, You Taught My Heart to Sing, Helen’s Song, My Muse, My One and Only Love, But He Knows, The Way We Were, My Old Flame, Hey, It’s Me You’re Talkin’ To, I Loves You Porgy
A Texas singer-songwriter’s legend lives on with this journey of personal discovery and anecdotal cleverness.