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Recent Listening: Trios. Part 1, Hal Galper


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Hal Galper, E Pluribus Unum (Origin). You won't be hearing Galper on your favorite easy listening station. The past few years, the pianist has used sonic density, astringent harmonies, massive technique and powerful swing to build intricate edifices. Galper's music is demanding beyond even the muscular bebop he played when he was the pianist in Phil Woods' quintet. The experienced listener who brings an open mind will be drawn in by a story teller creating layers of meaning with expressed and implied allusions to shared musical understanding. Bassist Jeff Johnson and drummer John Bishop, members of Galper's working trio, agree so thoroughly with his ethos that the three achieve the accord suggested by name of the album. Several hearings (recommended) disclose the depth of their relationship and interaction

In Charlie Parker's “Constellation," the trio's unity coalesces around swirls of sound spinning out of “I Got Rhythm" harmonies and suggesting the subject of the piece's title. “How Deep is the Ocean" builds--and builds--and builds--on Irving Berlin's melody and chord changes, taking both into realms of complexity that Berlin never imagined when he wrote the song in 1932. Duke Ellington's “Take the Coltrane" is as a free as a blues can be and still be the blues. Of Galper's original compositions, the title of “Rapunzel's Luncheonette" stimulates nearly as many images as the piece itself. The modal energy in his left hand supports wild sorties by the right up and down the keyboard. If McCoy Tyner happens to hear the piece, I should imagine he'll be grinning.

Dedicated to Michael Brecker, “Soliloquy" is the kind of ballad the late tenor saxophonist thrived on, blending lyricism, nostalgia and power. Johnson's solo is a high point of the album. “Wandering Spirit," floating through a harmonic sequence that is less plain that it first seems, gathers intensity through Galper's solo, subsides during a superb Johnson solo, and wanders away on Bishop's cymbal splashes. “Invitation to Openness" suggests spontaneous mutual invention, with lines from the three musicians swimming and leaping together like dolphins at play.

Next time: More trios, in brief

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This story appears courtesy of Rifftides by Doug Ramsey.
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