Monday, November 28, 2011

Kevin Hays: Variations (Pirouet Records 2011)

There is a lot to discover in and behind Kevin Hays' piano solo music. It is music that appears to be classical yet deeply breathes in the spirit of jazz. It is the music of a jazz improviser who integrates the vocabulary of various epochs of piano music in an exceptionally natural way, transforming it into a distinctive musical language. Kevin Hays is a musician with an enormous gift for the unusual who creates a fascinatingly integral whole out of a multiplicity of idioms. Pirouet Records

When famed jazz scholar Gunther Schuller first coined the term "Thematic Improvisation," he wasn't introducing a new concept so much as shedding light on how jazz artists had come to use the age-old "Theme And Variations" format in their own sweet way. While nobody would argue that grand compositional gestures or outrĂ© improvisations from a master musician can be revealing, hearing an artist dissect and rebuild a musical theme on the spot is the real window into their mind. A musician may have all of the usual musical tools at their disposal, like key changes, tempo changes, rhythmic diminution and augmentation, and harmonic and melodic alteration, but they're only tools, and the artist still has to do the heavy lifting with the head, hands and heart.(...) (By DAN BILAWSKY)