Wednesday, November 8, 2017

USA: Billy Lester- (2017)

Billy Lester | Unabridged Billy Lester Unabridged Notes by Howard Mandel

Pianist Billy Lester is a musical original. That’s obvious from the first, oh, 17 seconds of Unabridged, his sixth album and second all-solo recording.

Listen to the unusual, brief motif with which Lester opens “Overture: Passionate Musings,” then develops, complicates and completes it faster than you’d tie a shoelace. Pause -- and he continues. Not to just recapitulate or elaborate the cell-like theme through variation, but to expand it as a theme in a concentrated, melodically flowing way that’s not exactly “songlike,” or modal, either. Call it the genre of no genre.

Because what Lester does here contains sonic elements that might be identified with compositional modernism, contemporary “classical” music, or sounds that seem to exist as if only sprung from themselves – it’s not so obvious that he arrives at his singularity through decades of deep devotion to and teaching of the music we all call jazz. Swing, the blues and American songbook standards, jazz icons as well as major composers of the Western classical tradition are Lester’s touchstones, regardless of that fact that what he’s creating now ignores, sidesteps, bypasses or abstracts virtually all American music’s basic conventions.