I spent the day yesterday writing and listening to pianist Aaron Diehl's new album, The Bespoke Man's Narrative (Mack Ave.). I love Diehl's chord voicings and acute sense of drama. In his playing, you can hear the suspense of Red Garland and patience of Ahmad Jamal. And yet he sounds like himself.
Diehl's trio here features David Wong on bass and Rodney Green on drums—with vibraphonist Warren Wolf joining on seven tracks. No one is in a hurry, which is a joy, since their restraint lets your ear keep up with what they're doing and fully absorb their ideas. Even on up-tempo songs, there's a crispness and clarity that's never rushed—like the evenness of water moving from pitcher to glass.
Juilliard-trained, Diehl is the American Pianists Association's 2011 Cole Porter Fellow in Jazz. Other honors include Lincoln Center's Martin E. Segal award (2004), winner of the Jazz Arts Group Hank Marr Jazz Competition (2003), and Outstanding Soloist at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Essentially Ellington Competition (2002). Born in Columbus, Ohio, Diehl now lives in Manhattan and is pianist at St. Joseph of the Holy Family Church in Harlem. A nice guy as well as a towering talent.
If you want to hear Diehl's chops in all their glory, sample Moonlight in Vermont, which he also arranged splendidly for the quartet. The rendition is respectful of the original masterpiece yet it pulls this way and that as drama builds. Yet the rendition never jumps track or becomes bombastic, always remaining within the parameter's of the song's sophisticated nostalgia.
Diehl's originals—Generation Y, Blue Nude and Stop and Go—as well as Duke Ellington's Ravel-ian ballad Single Petal of a Rose are all perfect executions that exhibit the mastery of the quartet's individual parts. Their sound reminds me of those intricate tapestries that honor simple beauty and story-telling—without bringing too much attention to the loom.