CD Song listing:
1) Easy Walker
2) Song Without Words
4) Rain Threads
5) Street of Dreams
6) Foots 7) Stan's Song 8) Night Mist
DVD Features: A Liner Notes B - Concert Video C - Interviews D - Slideshows E - Tours Photos/Bonus Track
F - Credits
Personnel: Lee Shaw - piano
Rich Syracuse - bass
Jeff "Siege" Siegel - drums
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LEE SHAW TRIO
Live in Graz (ARC, 2008)
by Tom Pierce
Jazz recordings sometimes take on a special significance, over and above their musical value, when they inform us about the artists involved. One of the striking characteristics of the Lee Shaw trio, which has three previous recordings with these particular musicians, is the way they find so many ways in performance to demonstrate the compelling art of their individual improvisation, within their supporting each other within the framework of the trio.
For the club set on the CD, Lee Shaw used three sources for the selections in a well-balanced performance: compositions by other noted pianists, her own originals, and an enduring Great American Songbook standard. She opened the set with Easy Walker, an aptly-titled, loose, medium-tempo swinger, written in 1959 by Dr Billy Taylor. She closed it with a simmering, well-spaced treatment of Night Mist, composed by the legendary Ahmad Jamal, the widely acknowledged master of effective use of space in Jazz. He initially recorded it in 1961 on his At the Blackhawk album.
The originals she played were. A Song Without Words, a melodic composition that she described as simply being one for which she had no lyrics; Elegy was written in 1980 and also appeared on her 2007 release, Originals; Rain Threads, inspired in 1998 by a misty rain in Vienna; Stan's Song, an elegantly touching piece dedicated to her late husband, drummer Stan Shaw; and Foots, penned for her big-footed Dalmatian in 1996 and on her Essence CD.
Street of Dreams, an intriguing ballad, was composed by the prolific Victor Young in 1932 for Bing Crosby. For listeners familiar with Sam Lewis' captivating verse and lyrics, the trio's gentle opening statement followed by emotionally building solos, conjures images of people desperately attracted to a place promising escape from life's problems - in ways left up to the listener to imagine.
Throughout the concert, the trio's delightful balance of rhythm, melody and harmony was consistently on display. And their close interplay reminded this reviewer of a conversation with them a few years ago at Justin's between sets. I marveled that at times, their playing was so fluid and stimulating as individuals, while still supportive of the group, that it was difficult to tell which of them was actually soloing. Rich Syracuse smiled and said they often enjoyed passing things around between themselves in sort of a contrapuntal approach. I have since often reflected that their attitude underlying this, is as important to their successful engaging in counterpoint, as their individual technical prowess.
Beyond the actual music performed, the very origin of this release itself is an excellent example of this essential three - way support. While Ms Shaw serves as the leader and composer of five of the seven songs contained, drummer Jeff Siegel played the key role in November 2007 of booking a tour of concerts for the trio in Austria, Switzerland and Germany, and bassist Rich Syracuse began interviewing Ms Shaw on his cell phone camera, which served as the rudimentary but essential beginnings of the idea to document Lee's place in Jazz history via a DVD to accompany the CD of one of the concerts in Graz, Austria.
The inclusion of the DVD represented an important first for Ms Shaw, thanks to the desire of producers Jeff Siegel and Rich Syracuse to document Lee Shaw's life and contributions. The various DVD segments comprise a broad, in-depth look, at not only the singular life and career of Ms Shaw, but also fascinating insights into the positive workings of an excellent trio.
The Liner Notes portion is a brief audio version of the CD's written notes, with photos of Jeff and Rich as they provide a personalized, helpful introductions describing the origins of this particular trio, how the tour developed and a brief overview of the DVD.
Further complementing the audio CD on the DVD, the concert video segment presents three songs performed on Oct 11, 2007 at the Art Gallery at World of Basses in Reutlingen, Germany. The relaxed but focused concentration of each member of the trio was clearly on display, as they swung through Easy Walker; Lonely Town; and Grazeology.
Perhaps the most comprehensive and revealing segment of the DVD is the Interviews, which consisted of four sub-segments: Lee's Early Years; Lee in Chicago; Life with Stan; and The Lee Shaw trio. The first 3 of these sub-segments provide an effective platform for soliloquies by Ms Shaw to engagingly trace her life and career from a passionate, very young music student in the small town of Ada, OK to her work in various large cities with her late husband. In addition to her very lively recounting of many fascinating stories, while seated at her piano at home, a number of captivating photos are presented from various points in her life, with well known musicians at a number of historic Jazz venues. Although much of this was very touching, she was able to express her fondness for the life she's chosen, without any excessive sentimentality. The fourth sub-segment involves the entire trio being interviewed, in a very intimate setting around a table in Ms Shaw's home, by renowned Jazz historian, writer and percussionist Hal Miller. His gently probing, incisive questions provided a solid platform for each member to freely share interesting and meaningful aspects of their relationship, musically as well as personally.
The Slideshows segment, with appropriate background music by the trio, displays Lee's Wall of Fame - wonderfully joyful photos in her home with many nationally known musicians, through the years. A number of the photographs of a young, vivacious Lee Shaw are very striking and will no doubt mean a great deal to those long-time fans who have enjoyed her work for many years.
The last segment, Tour Photos/Bonus Track exhibits a wealth of exciting action takes of the performances (in addition to European guest musicians). There are also enchanting looks at various European Jazz venues, and audiences enjoying the music.
Reflecting on the overall package of this release comprises, one is struck by a number of lasting impressions. These include the open expressiveness of both the music, and the musicians themselves; the richness of the musical tradition and legacy that each member so obviously appreciates being able to draw on, as well as contributing to; and the refreshingly honest humility Lee Shaw projects, despite her enormous talent.
Tom Pierce has had a burning passion for Jazz for over 45 years, initiated and fueled by seeing live in New York City, starting in the early 1960's, virtually every major artist still performing. He's been very happily living in Guilderland the last 5 years, as an active retiree sharing his love of music by writing online reviews for a number of web sites, preparing DVD presentations to various groups, co-Hosting Radio programs showcasing his favorite artists and busily supporting A Place for Jazz and the SwingTime Society in a variety of way