Revisiting a Stunningly Orchestrated Piano Jazz Masterpiece
On one hand, the lockdown has been a nightmare on pretty much every level. On the other, sudden time away from work opened up a window for some serious spring cleaning. Beyond the chance to wipe the extraneous stuff off the hard drive, these past months have been an opportunity to spend quality time with some great albums which had been sitting around for a long time, sometimes years, and had always been on the bubble. Yet they never ended up making the front page here until now. This is one of them.
Pianist Danny Green‘s 2018 album One Day It Will – streaming at Spotify – is one of the most unselfconsciously gorgeous releases in recent memory. The obvious comparison is the classic 1966 Bill Evans Trio with Symphony Orchestra record, although Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage Suite and Matt Ulery‘s recent work are also points of reference. Green really likes the high midrange: his soaring melodies have a rare glisten and gleam.
Jazz with a string section goes all the way back to Charlie Parker, but this is a landmark of the style. Here the pianist is joined by bassist Justin Grinnell and drummer Julien Cantelm from his long-running trio, plus a string quartet comprising San Diego Symphony violinists Kate Hatmaker and Igor Pandurski, violist Travis Maril and cellist Erica Erenyi. If breathtaking lushness is your thing, this is your holy grail.
The group open with the bright, chiming, anthemically Brubeckian Time Lapse to Fall, the strings leaping in swells and counterpoint. As the Parrot Flies has a dancing, tropical quality: it could be vintage Donald Fagen at his most elegant and erudite, at least until the tumbling, eerily modal bridge.
The album’s title track is a striking, achingly bittersweet ballad: one of the coolest things about this album is how the strings, or a violin, or the cello carry the melody as often as the piano does. In this case, it’s Grinnell’s muscular solo that signals a shift toward sunnier exchanges between Green and the strings.
View From the Sky, with its dancing ebullience and lyrical upper-register piano, makes a good segue. From the shimmering strings of the intro to its catchy, gospel-flavored dynamic shifts, Lemon Avenue is the album’s most expansive track. November Reveries, a fondly brisk ballad without words, has Grinnell adding gravitas over Cantelm’s flurries until the strings come sweeping back.
Green’s wistfully vamping variations in Sifting Through the Silence might be the most vivid distillation of where he’s going with all this. The saturnine, brooding October Ballad, a jazz waltz, is the album’s most darkly stunning track, with a stark, tantalizingly brief cello solo toward the end.
The memorably rippling Snowy Day in Boston evokes a steady trail of chilly South Station T riders looking forward to cozy Somerville apartments more than it does, say, dodging snowplows on Mass Ave. The album winds up with the imaginatively blustery orchestrated blues Down and Out.