Philippe Baden Powell, solo piano – Piano Masters Series, Vol. 2 – Adventure Music AM1072 2, 49:10 ****:
The Adventure Music label has evolved into a platform for many types of music, living up to the label’s name and philosophy, with releases from artists such as multi-genre, multi-string player Mike Marshall to a bevy of Brazilian-oriented records from Jovino Santos Neto, Toninho Horta and others. Along the way, the label started a schedule of productions entitled Piano Masters, to present the “intimate experience of solo piano music between artist and audience.” The first volume featured Benjamin Taubkin. The sophomore edition, Piano Masters Series, Vol. 2, showcases Philippe Baden Powell, son of Baden Powell and brother of guitarist Louis Marcel Powell.
The 49-minute, 13-track outing is a diverse mix of six Powell originals and a cross section of jazz and Latin American composers, from Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane to Caetano Veloso and Egberto Gismonti. This project was recorded on a March day in 2008 at Klavierhaus in New York City using the same piano from the first volume, the Fazioli F-308 Concert Grand Piano. The recording session thus provides a controlled environment which beautifully highlights Powell’s expertise and expressive talent.
After a brief, classically-tinted prologue, Powell opens with his short and lightly discordant “Frêvo da Sorte,” which flickers between forebodingly dark chords and playful humor-hinted tones. Powell remarks in his succinct liner notes he was “inspired by the energy” of the Big Apple during the week he spent in New York City which included the one-day session for this album. That vibrancy and vitality can be heard on the lengthiest cut, “Garfield,” which offers Powell’s ample tapestry of musical exploration, from swift right-hand runs to moody harmonics and chord clusters which furnish a tiered rhythmic characteristic. Two Powell originals close the record: the potent and animated “Vista Chinesa,” a tune which blends classical tinges with improvised sections and which was named after a panoramic vista in Rio de Janeiro; and an appropriately lyrical epilogue, “Ending,” which has a similar sensibility to the opening prologue.
Powell’s Brazilian and family history is displayed on several numbers. He interprets his father’s famous hit “Consolação,” also done by Herbie Mann, Sergio Mendes, Bola Sete and many others. Powell’s rendition is a brisk dynamic presentation with layers of percussive chords which counterbalance the well-honed melody. Powell pays more homage to his lineage on another of his father’s compositions, “Chôro Para Metrônomo,” which is not as well-known but is another spirited conception which has a memorable melody and exhibits Powell’s significant skills. Powell’s witty side flourishes on Gismonti’s “Lôro,” which has a European impression rather than a Brazilian influence. There’s also a gracefully dusky reading of Edú Lobo and Vinicius de Moraes’ Brazilian vocal song “Canto Triste,” which Powell turns into a slow shadow-infused instrumental. Topping off the program are Monk and Coltrane covers. Powell revamps “‘Round About Midnight” as a late-night rumination which has an opaque essence that focuses on the track’s solitary emotional quality. Powell uses the nearly seven-minute duration to gradually build from a feeling of aloneness to expectant romantic possibility. Powell pares Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” down to essentials to create a brooding meditation which then develops into purposeful intensity and concludes with Powell’s two final sharply stabbed notes. Powell is an artist who has the confidence and control of an expert keyboardist, whose imagination and agility is coupled with a musical perspective which knows no borders or boundaries. That perspective is completely demonstrated on Piano Masters Series, Vol. 2.
TrackList: Prologue; Frêvo da Sorte; Consolação; ‘Round About Midnight; Chôro Para Metrônomo; Lôro; The Meantime; Canto Triste; Sou Você; Garfield; Giant Steps; Vista Chinesa; Ending.
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