David Cook - Pathway (2010)
David Cook is a recent addition to the burgeoning young talent that's filling up the roster at Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records, and like his new labelmates, this pianist comes to BJU Records with an abundance of experience. Already, he's worked with Lizz Wright, Donny McCaslin, Dennis Chambers, John Ellis, Matt Wilson and even big-time pop stars like Justin Timberlake (speaking of pop, Mr. Cook is not to be confused with the American Idol winner of the same name).
It was just a matter of time before Cook would find the right time to follow down the pathway of his career to a destination as a leader, and he formally made that step last December 7 with the release of his debut album called, appropriately, Pathway. Using such a solid rhythm section as Matt Clohesy (bass) and Mark Ferber (drums), Cook signals he aims to impress the first time out.
Most jazz musicians start out interpreting standards, eventually developing a distinct style and, if they develop the knack for it, move on writing and performing their own songs. Pathway, however, presents Cook already as a fully-formed songwriter and performer. He has a wide palette of styles in his technique and he uses them intelligently to forge a deep harmonic character that's pleasing and never fussy. Likewise, his composing approach is often deceptively easy on the ear, masking all the moving parts that make up the song; a lilting waltz like Robin's Song" for instance reveals more of itself with each listen, the mark of a really good songwriter. The downtempo ballad Idly, Ideally" exhibits his ability to manipulate the spaces between the notes, and the easygoing groove of Lullaby" builds up to a set-closing jam. The longest track Napali," attest to Cook's ability to write extended pieces that carefully modulates moods, working in a thematic bass line in tandem with Clohesy while negotiating a 7/4 rhythm with Ferber.
Other songs have a ring of sophistication as well, like the light Brazilian groove of The Meanderer" and the opener The Thing," a second line driven blues put through a modern jazz filter. Regardless of the varying ingredients Cook tosses into the pot, the songs come out tasty every time. Pathway is an impressive debut of a jazz pianist and composer who is clearly going down the right path. With a start like this, it will be worthwhile to find where this path leads him.