Thoughtfully Dynamic, Subtly Amusing Piano Improvisation from Ron Stabinsky
“Enjoy yourself,” Gil Scott-Heron would tell people. “If you can’t enjoy yourself, what the hell CAN you enjoy?” Pianist Ron Stabinsky seems to be doing exactly that on his new solo album, Free for One, streaming at Spotify. Being a Pennsylvanian with a sense of humor, it’s only logical that he would fall in with the Mostly Other People Do the Killing crowd (“We’re not satirists” – yeah, right). He’s playing the album release show at 8 PM on Nov 15 at Roulette, with bassist Tom Blancarte opening the show solo. $20 advance tix are recommended for those who gravitate toward similarly vivid, classically-inspired improvisers like Jean-Michel Pilc and Kris Davis.
Or Monk – who Stabinsky resembles in terms of judiciously and purposefully expanding on a theme, if not necessarily melodically – throughout the sardonically titled opening number, After It’s Over. The album’s second cut, 31, has Stabinsky setting playfully clustering, rapidfire upper righthand spirals against a sort of altered stride in the left. On one hand, Viral Infection sounds like a sketch for a brooding ballad; on the other, it’s a pastiche of wry quotes and allusions that Stabinsky alternates with a spinning, slice-and-dice attack.
Gone Song follows a desolate, somber, stygian tangent that looks back to Rachmaninoff: searching righthand, coldly anchoring lows in the left. Then Stabinsky flips the script with For Reel, its droll Flight of the Bumblebee references and rapidfire game of leapfrog. It’s over in less than two minutes. From there, Stabinsky doesn’t waste any time launching into the album’s most epic improvisation, Not Long Now Long Now: tasty, emphatic, uneasy close harmonies and oddly knotty rhythmic loops give way to more darkly spacious explorations.
Rapture begins as a study in trick intros. A swing shuffle? Ragtime? Neither. Persistence, maybe, at least as far as low, loopy lefthand is concerned. Stabinsky closes the recording with Once But Again, the closest thing here to a more-or-less straight-up ballad. The esthetic is much the same as the intro to Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, which is essentially a field recording, . “Aw, we were just noodling around,” one of the musicians captured by Gaye’s stealth recorder tells him. “Well, you noodle exquisitely,” Gaye answered.