As more and more self-produced jazz CDs come our way I’m noticing that many of them lack any order number whatever. I suppose if the performer is selling his disc directly or just listing it online, such as it CD Baby, no number is needed Well frankly many of them are a bore, but this one shines. It’s one of the most enjoyable piano trio albums I’ve heard in some time.
Michael Kocour is a professor of Jazz Studies at Arizona State University in Tempe, and he hails from Chicago. He has appeared with Dizzy Gillespie, James Moody, Benny Golson and the Chicago Symphony. Among his inspirations are Hank Jones, Ahmad Jamal and Oscar Peterson. From the first track it’s obvious that Kocour is not your run-of-the-mill jazz pianist. That track is a brave condensation of the number Duke Ellington himself wrote for the album that captured the meeting of his band and Count Basie’s Band. Scuttlebutt is that the title Battle Royal wasn’t far off – there were definitely some pissed-off people at the recording session of the two big bands. The fact that the big band tune sounds great with just the trio demonstrates the amazing facility Kocour has for generating lots of melodic and harmonic interest.
Although Kocour’s style is extremely sophisticated, it doesn’t ignore the swing and beat of things, and his skilled rhythm section supports him beautifully in this department. Most of the eight tracks are six or seven minutes length, allowing plenty of time for a variety of creative variations on the tunes. Even those not on my favorites list – such as The Shadow of Your Smile – came up with such fresh harmonizations and phrasing that I found them most listenable. The High Standards title also applies well to the recording quality. [If you can’t find the CD: Michael.Kocour@asu.edu]
Tracks: Battle Royal, The Very thought of You, The Shadow of Your Smile, I’ll Remember April, Let’s Face the Music and Dance, Star Eyes, Hello Young Lovers, Body and Soul.
– John Henry