SOLO PIANO performance. That no-hiding-place musical arena of clarity, precision and (especially in jazz terms) improvisatory soul-bearing which requires experience and adroitness to succeed.
Classically-trained pianist Jason Rebello famously became ‘poster boy’ of the early ’90s British jazz revival, opening up the way to an enviable career working with jazz and rock royalty such as Wayne Shorter, Jeff Beck and Sting. Just three years ago, an acoustic piano trio set at Kings Place, London, revealed the rich eloquence of his jazz sensibility; and ensuing album Anything But Look‘s exciting soul/funk/rock infusion, with guest vocalists and instrumentalists, reflected the many facets of his studio and stage keyboard experience.
New album Held finds Rebello revelling in the absolute purity of a Steinway, the warm acoustics of the Michael Tippett Centre at Bath Spa University, and ten original compositions… plus a popular ‘party piece’ interpretation. This is a sequence which confirms the pianist’s technical brilliance, as well as his broadly-influenced musical personality, requiring focus and time to enjoy its unadorned, many-hued expressiveness.
From the word go, the buoyant, left-hand ostinati of opener Pearl provides the basis for typically dextrous, high-line improvisation and contrasting reflective beauty, whilst Salad Days‘ following soft breeze carries lusciously melodic chordal phrases reminiscent of John Taylor, eventually straining at the leash to break into brisk song; and title track Held is so delicately held aloft, as if wistfully recalling times gone by. Rebello’s wide rock/pop experience also, unsurprisingly, colours his work – Tokyo Dream‘s delicate, koto-like expression, for example, might easily support a Charlene Soraia vocal; another of his collaborators, Pee Wee Ellis, could be imagined adding tenor sax improv to the ebullient Happy But For How Long. And the pianist’s perennial solo favourite, Lennon & McCartney’s Blackbird, is at last recorded here in all its splendid, joyful, grooving elegance.
Miniature Purple Sunflower finds Rebello at his most sublime in a watery reflection which glints with unexpected chordal shifts and countryfied appoggiaturas, whilst Polzeath (presumably after the coastal Cornish village) catches the sun with jaunty demeanour and dazzlingly rolling solo lines. Mercurial As The Dust Settles – flitting between a rock-tinged bass figure and whispy, blue-sky carefreeness – indicates a musical storytelling; the quiet, deep reverence of Thanks John may well be in gratitude to the above-mentioned, much-missed father of British jazz piano, John Taylor; and closing vignette Dissolve‘s implied free improvisation is just as tender.
It’s always a pleasure to pore over the work of Jason Rebello, whether in full-flight rock synth mode or at the piano keyboard; and this solo jazz spotlight is no exception.
Jason Rebello piano
Edition Records – EDN1071 (2016)