Austin Peralta: The Shadow of Your Smile

Consider the strange case of pianist Austin Peralta, now 18 years old as I write this review. Signed to a record contract by Sony Japan, Peralta had two CD leader dates for a major label, each featuring an all-star cast, under his belt by age 16. But none of his music has been issued in the United States, and Peralta has no interest in using these impressive disks to boost his career back home. He claims that they don't represent what he can do nowadays at the piano, and refused to send this writer (whose curiosity had been piqued by the music on Peralta's MySpace page) review copies. What a change from the aggressive hyping and over-marketing of unripened jazz prodigies, either grace-ful or savage, that is so characteristic of new millennium jazz.

Undaunted by the self-effacing artist, I dug deep into the piggy bank to get this music imported from Japan to my home stereo system. (Check it out: you can get this disk from across the Pacific for a mere $52.99 currently at Amazon . . . ouch!) And if you have some spare yen rolled up in your tatami mat, you may want to secure your own copy of this CD. In other words, don't believe young master Peralta's modest claims for a single moment. This youngster can play. Even in his mid-teens, when he recorded this track, he displayed a crystal clear touch, smart musical ideas and a confident presence at the keyboard. The repertoire is mostly familiar standards on this CD, and here he tackles a piece that could easily collapse into cocktail piano heroics. But Peralta carries the day, with the benefit of some exceptional support from the estimable Ron Carter and Billy Kilson. This pianist is definitely a talent to watch. Let's hope his next CD gets wider distribution.

June 29, 2009 · 0 comments


Dexter Gordon: The Shadow of Your Smile

If you ask someone to connect Dexter Gordon to a single record label, I’d guess that nine times out of ten, Blue Note is deservedly going to be the label uttered. But perhaps just as rich and rewarding a historical legacy is Gordon’s relationship with Steeplechase, the Danish label with which he recorded countless albums throughout his European sojourn from 1962-1974. Just a quick rundown reveals how much there is to offer—the seven-volume Dexter in Radioland series documenting his extended run at the famed Montmartre club in 1964, his individual mid-sixties sessions including Loose Walk and Wee Dot, and the late 1969 dates that led to the Swiss Nights releases.

The Shadow of Your Smile is among the first of Gordon’s Steeplechase releases from the 1970s. Supported with a light touch by a Swedish backing band, Gordon is in the mood to play slowly here, and does so exquisitely. “Shadow of Your Smile,” along with his longtime favorite, “You’ve Changed,” are two of the ballads that Gordon played most frequently, and any version you may find speaks to Gordon’s dedication to staying true to the original lyric. On this one, he chooses to embellish that lyric, and later develop his improvisation, with a heightened sense of open rhythmic space. We’re so used to hearing Gordon seem to know exactly where he’s going next that listening to a more speculative, slow-searching statement is an attractive and unique late-career experience.

April 14, 2009 · 0 comments


Nora McCarthy: The Shadow of Your Smile

"The Shadow of Your Smile" is the best cut on this album from songstress Nora McCarthy. Accompanied ably by pianist John DiMartino, McCarthy presents a collection of standards and self-penned numbers. The well-regarded McCarthy is not a jazz singer in the traditional sense. Rather she is a balladeer who veers toward jazz interpretation, as on this cut, where she offers up an expressive slow scat section. You can hear this woman's life in her voice, cracks and all. That's what life is about. Music is communication. You don't need to be Jenny Lind (the 19th-century "Swedish Nightingale") to get your point across. After listening to Nora McCarthy, you sense that you know her. I don't think we could ask more of any artist.

January 22, 2009 · 0 comments


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