(Narrow Path Records)
by J Hunter
Sometime last year, I put forth my opinion that jazz piano-trio sub-genre may not be saturated, but the ground beneath its feet sure squishes in places. And, upon reflection, thats not a bad thing at all. Done right, a piano-trio date is the best Reset button a jazz fan can have: Its spare instrumentation brings the music back to the basics, while still allowing plenty of room for exploration. (See: Ethan Iverson and Jesse Stacken) Robert Lindquist has taken the middle course on Old Roads
New Paths, with eminently satisfying results.
At first blush, Lindquist who counts Lee Shaw as one of his teachers played it safe, choosing to fill his set with well-worn standards by Great American Songbook icons like Irving Berlin and Rodgers & Hart. And, truth to tell, his treatments of Berlins How Deep is The Ocean and Mercer Ellingtons Things Aint What They Used to Be dont break any new ground, though the performances on both tracks are top-notch. But get past the blush and you find some pretty exciting interpretations, as well as two Lindquist originals that really prick up the ears.
The swinging opening take on the Comden/Green/Styne classic Just in Time sets up the operating system for Old Roads, even as it generates my only real gripe about the disc. Lindquist marks his musical territory with a mix of quick, simple phrases and cascading runs that are guaranteed to make you smile. Theres ample passion here, but theres also more than a little precision, instantly evoking the approach of Lindquists aforementioned musical mentor. John Menegon eventually gets his turn in the spotlight, which is always a pleasure whether the Ulster County bassist is a leader or a sideman. (Menegon works the bottom of the neck on this track, but there are plenty of places on Old Roads where his tone gets very low and very fat.)
After drummer Jeff Dowd does a quick solo/trade-off section, Lindquist comes back with a solo that is kicked up one more notch. But just when things start to get really interesting, the track is faded out! Maybe the rest of the take was rubbish, though considering how deep in the pocket the band was, I strongly doubt it. I understand spatial issues may have been a factor, but given the choice of experiencing musicus interruptus or missing out on one of the shorter tunes on the rest of the date, I wish Lindquist had gotten out the scissors and cut something. That said, what follows the fade-out is truly tasty.
Lindquist goes the other way on Rodgers & Harts My Romance, eschewing the usual outpouring of balladic schmaltz in favor of a more joyful, playful tack; Lindquist puts all his ballad money into gut-twisting versions of Mal Waldrons Soul Eyes and Jimmy Van Heusens Darn That Dream. Another van Heusen tune, It Could Happen to You, demands you get excitied about the possibilities in life, and Ahmad Jamals Nite Mist Blues is the kind of take-me-home-baby tune that can put a towering exclamation point on any set. Lindquists original Stellar by Daylight is your classic swinging bop piano-trio tune classic in style but vibrant in its newness: Lindquist and Menegon exchange engrossing dialogue throughout the tune, and the overall piece is 180 degrees opposite of the classic title it invokes.
But the real newsmaker is the closing piece: Waltz for Nick, a heartfelt tribute to the Capital regions first jazz icon, the late Nick Brignola. Lindquist wrote the music, but the tender, reminiscing lyrics were penned by Menegon and his wife Teri Roiger, who delivers them in the wonderfully expressive style that makes her last disc Still Life such a treat. Former Brignola sideman Chuck DAloia another of Lindquists teachers shows how to do a lot with a little, contributing a textured, minimalist guitar solo with a haunting sound that brings chills.
Like the title says, Old Roads
New Paths goes where many others have gone before. However, just like in life, its the journey, not the destination, and Robert Lindquist is a tour guide who knows some short cuts and back roads that make the trip worthwhile.
J HUNTER is a former announcer/producer for radio stations in the Capital Region and the Bay Area, including KSJS/San Jose (where he was Assistant Music Director/Jazz Programming) and Q104 WQBK/Albany. He is a frequent contributor to the web site All About Jazz and to the monthly music magazine State of Mind. He currently resides in Clifton Park.