Ikkyu’s Dream: Solo Piano Reflections – Philip Swanson, piano – MSR 1287, 61:35 [Distr. by Albany] ***1/2:
I am not sure how our intrepid editor will categorize this album; if as classical, then I think it fails, but as jazz, not bad at all.
The reason for the confusion is that noted trombonist and pianist Philip Swanson plays on both sides of the court. Though it is not indicated in the notes, I am assuming that all of the works here are improvised. The influences are vastly impressionistic, somewhat minimalist (lots of ostinato action) and seemingly inspired by reflections on the poetry of Ikkyu Sojun, a Buddhist Zen-master monk with a real penchant towards the erotic. None of the poetry is included (check the web) so there is no danger of invoking the CD ratings board, and the music remains neutral in that regard.
Anyone who likes Keith Jarrett’s improvisational albums will likely respond to this as well, though Swanson is quite different than Jarrett, more meditative and technically simpler, but in possession of a tonal palate that is more varied and colorful than the ECM artist enjoys. Most of the tracks here are by Swanson, but there are some others as well, including a fine rendition of a famous favorite of mine, Chick Corea’s Crystal Silence (ECM), probably remembered best from the duo album he did years ago with vibraphonist Gary Burton. In fact, Swanson’s piano style is not unlike Corea’s.
He can also do some interesting things with such classics as My Funny Valentine and two different takes of Miles Davis’s Blue in Green. But I don’t want to short his own music as well, always provocative and well-done, sometimes quite beautiful and sensitive.
While this is not an essential album to me I did like it, and jazz enthusiasts will find a lot to be enthusiastic about, and others might find much to please them as well.
Ikkyu’s Dream (Philip Swanson)
Neptune’s Canvas (Philip Swanson): I. Sapphire; II. Azure; III. Glisten
Crystal Silence (Chick Corea)
Loss (Philip Swanson)
Interior Winds (Philip Swanson)
The Impending Death of the Virgin Spirit (William Ackerman)
The Other Side (Philip Swanson)
Blue in Green [Take 1] (Miles Davis)
Peace (Horace Silver)
My Funny Valentine
(Rodgers & Hammerstein)
Blue in Green [Take 2] (Miles Davis)
Into the Mist (Philip Swanson)
— Steve Ritter