Michael McNeill’s trio with the bassist Drew Gress
and the drummer Phil Haynes
explores the pianist’s original compositions, which range from lyrical ballads, to hard-driving jazz, to avant-garde soundscapes. Gress and Haynes are a seasoned rhythm team — their collaboration goes back nearly three decades, and they appear together on some 18 albums — and with McNeill they push and pull the pianist’s music in new directions.
Over the past four years McNeill has become an integral part of the creative music scene in Buffalo. His imaginative piano playing has found a home alongside jazz players ranging from Maynard Ferguson-alumnus Bruce Johnstone (on Kelly Bucheger
’s House of Relics) to local underground hero Steve Baczkowski
, and he has developed a personal voice on the harmonium in crossover ensembles led by percussionist Ravi Padmanabha
. McNeill performs composed music with the Wooden Cities New Music Collective, co-leads a jazz quintet with the polymath drummer John Bacon
, and has collaborated with trumpet legend Paul Smoker on projects of standards and of original compositions. He also composes for, plays with, and facilitates the New Buffalo Jazz Octet, an ensemble made up of “...a veritable who’s who list of killer regional jazz players...” (Buffalo News
, McNeill’s debut CD as a leader, features renowned improvisers Ken Filiano (bass) and Phil Haynes (drums) on a program of original compositions.
“I often despair of my inability to sort out the vast wave of piano trios that come my way, but sometimes I'm caught by surprise — just rarely by someone I've never heard of before. First clue here is the bassist, who never plays on uninteresting albums. Filiano kicks off the 20:34 opener — that length another sign that something is up here — but when the pianist takes over he darts in and out, never settling for something ordinary… A-” — Tom Hull on Passageways