Joe Alterman: Comin' Home


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If you're like me, you probably grow frustrated when you run out of early recordings by pianists such as Red Garland, Ahmad Jamal, Ramsey Lewis, Gene Harris and Les McCann. You know, pianists who listened to themselves as they played and loved more than anything to swing and move souls. These pianists had a healthy respect for space, they loved single-note improvised lines, they didn't rush songs and they avoided jamming in as many notes as possible. Block chords were as tightly packed as they'd go, and they'd add them in just the right places.

Pianist Joe Alterman to the rescue. Joe, who recently relocated from New York to Atlanta, just released a new album, Comin' Home to You, that has all of the ear candy I mention above. It's hard to express exactly what Joe is doing to capture your attention, but much of it relies on taste, technique, a healthy respect for lyricism and a strong sense of what exactly made past piano greats special. On the album, Joe works with a trio that includes bassist Nathaniel Schroeder and drummer Doug Hirlinger on some tracks and bassist Scott Glazer and drummer Justin Chesarek on others.

Joe's song choices are interesting, all the more so when given a classic jazz piano feel. Tracks include I Heard It Through the Grapevine, Nina Never Knew, Les McCann's Fish This Week, Carole King and Gerry Goffin's Take Good Care of My Baby, Daryl Hall and John Oates' Sara Smile, and Stevie Wonder's Isn't She Lovely. Joe's two originals—Comin' Home to You and The Last Time I Saw You—are exceptional. He's a gorgeous songwriter.

This is one of those albums you put on and listen to repeatedly. It's inspiring music from an artist who hasn't forsaken the music's roots but has brought it along into modernity. Festivals from Newport to Rio and Nice should try to get Joe while they still afford him. A most impressive album and a must own. [Photo above of Joe Alterman with Houston Person]

JazzWax tracks: You'll find Joe Alterman's Comin' Home to You here.

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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