**** – 4 Stars Audiophile Audition (Pierre Giroux)
An animated and unique offering.
Tempo Rubato is a musical term referring to expressive and rhythmic freedom by a slight speeding up and then slowing down of the tempo of a piece at the discretion of the soloist. The Hal Galper Trio is the principal exponent of this musical style which is front and center of their newest release Airegin Revisited. Hal Galper is a startling pianist, who was a post-bop stylist, now uses the rubato method with a percussive denseness to restructure recognizable tunes. As Galper indicates in the liner notes to this release: “for the most part we’re trying to play ‘free’ on structures, a way of playing developed during my six-year apprenticeship with Sam Rivers”. The first offering is George Gershwin’s “Embraceable You” on which the trio builds a captivatingly uneven setting of color and tempos in a joyous fashion before acknowledging a brief traditional riff on the composition. Drummer John Bishop and bassist Jeff Johnson are an effective rhythm team who support the textural construct of Galper’s playing. Since he has developed an appreciation of Brazilian harmony, Galper uses this to perfect effect on “One Step Closer” with a nod to Erroll Garner in the process.
Galper will be 75 in 2013 and has been a leader of his own groups for over four decades. In his early career as a sideman, he played with the likes of Phil Woods, Chet Baker, Cannonball Adderley and Sam Rivers. However it was in his time with Rivers that he broke out with his own style and on Rivers’ composition “Melancholia”, Galper gives his mentor his due. Two long compositions dominate the closing cuts of the disc. First we have George Shearing’s bop ode “Conception”, and the other is Sonny Rollins’ “Airegin”, which as most jazz fans know is Nigeria spelled backwards .When Shearing first introduced the piece, he played it at a breakneck tempo. Later on in his career, he played the introduction at a slow pace and then picked it up after the first chorus to a swing beat. Galper chooses to offer it somewhere in-between and it is filled with fluid introspection along with Johnson showing he is a commanding bassist, and John Bishop demonstrating he is a cleverly vibrant drummer. The trio’s version of the Rollins’ tune is a showpiece for the band’s expressive command of pace, tone, and texture as well as being fluently captivating. This release is a deep dive into the rubato concept that the band plays with animation and uniqueness.
by Ken Dryden, All Music Guide
**** – 4 Stars
Hal Galper’s Rubato playing style, which evolved over a period of years before the pianist made it the centerpiece of his group’s performances, has confounded some listeners with its complex, overlapping rhythms where the musicians seem to be playing independently of one another. Yet those who focus on the interaction will recognize that it is just another method of giving familiar songs a new dimension. Galper’s trio with bassist Jeff Johnson and drummer John Bishop went into the studio without preconceived ideas about any of the pieces played, producing stunning results. George Gershwin’s “Embraceable You” opens as an extended improvisation that barely hints at the theme until the performance is nearly over, with Galper’s long, elaborate lines complemented by his rhythm section’s off-center accompaniment. The remaining tracks are all jazz compositions. The late bassist Jimmy Garrison’s “Ascendant” is not common fare, and opens by showcasing Johnson’s terrific chops backed by Bishop’s crisp brushwork, with the leader’s darting piano added later. Galper worked with the late Sam Rivers in the ’60s, so it is hardly surprising that the saxophonist’s “Melancholia” has long been a part of his repertoire. In his notes he shares that his slower rendition of it was to convey his sense of loss after Rivers’ death. The Rubato method works well in this time-tested piece, gradually building in intensity. The contributions of George Shearing have been somewhat overlooked, as though “Lullaby of Birdland” is his only composition that mattered. Galper reminds listeners that Shearing’s intricate bop vehicle “Conception” remains a challenge to jazz soloists, and the trio’s brilliant reconception of it extends its value into a new century. Sonny Rollins’ “Airegin” has long been a jam session favorite, though the trio’s approach slows it down in the introduction while adding to its drama and exotic air before launching into a wild interpretation which constantly shifts both tempo and focus on this jazz standard; Johnson’s edgy arco bass adds a nice touch. Finally, Galper’s “One Step Closer” blends the influence of Brazilian-like harmony with a cascading, cyclical theme into a majestic performance. Hal Galper’s Rubato playing style isn’t for new or casual listeners, it demands total focus to appreciate its nuances. But the rewards are infinite for jazz fans who give it their undivided attention.
by Ron Wynn, JazzTimes
Pianist Hal Galper’s latest release incorporates influences and approaches from multiple camps, a reflection of the versatility he displayed during lengthy stints with Chet Baker and Phil Woods. But it’s a sign of his growth as a player that he does it in a manner that’s neither tedious nor imitative. Galper sometimes opts for the lyrical, fluid sensibility popularized by stylists like Bill Evans and Brad Mehldau. But on other occasions he works in an edgier mode. His trio, like Evans’ and Mehldau’s, is superbly interactive. Bassist Jeff Johnson and drummer John Bishop function as equals, even if Galper usually establishes the direction.
Galper’s penchant for melodic and harmonic surprise is evident early on. The disc’s second piece, Ron Miller’s “Babes of Cancun,” veers toward the avant-garde, powered by Galper’s darting solo and Johnson’s explosive statements; their work is ably contrasted by Bishop’s steady, emphatic gestures. But while he becomes increasingly animated, Galper never resorts to gimmicks, and his playing remains tight and controlled. He moves even further outside with “Suspension,” one of three Galper originals, and on the eight-minute title track, Galper’s “Trip the Light Fantastic,” the pianist deftly builds drama, with flourishes and expressive runs converging into a memorable and delightful solo. The third Galper piece, “Get Up and Go,” proves just as rigorous as the title suggests.
There are also plenty of distinctive moments in the unit’s treatment of standards. Galper eschews the waltz tempo Evans made famous with his version of “Alice in Wonderland”; instead, he turns the tune into a spirited romp that deftly extends yet doesn’t distort the original’s rhythmic structure. The trio’s rendition of Jules Styne’s “Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry” is more intimate and reserved, though Galper’s melodic reading is gorgeous. The finale, “Be My Love,” was once a showcase for Mario Lanza’s operatic exploits in the film ‘The Toast of New Orleans.’ The trio’s updated version features Galper ripping his way through another strong solo. It’s an excellent conclusion to Hal Galper’s finest trio date.
by Dan McClenaghan, All About Jazz
Pianist Hal Galper began his journey into “rubato” playing early on in the new millennium, after a quite vibrant career in the mainstream, playing and recording with the likes of all-star alto saxophonists Phil Woods and Cannonball Adderley, legendary trumpeter Chet Baker and guitarist John Scofield. It hasn’t always been a smooth ride. At a show with guitarist John Stowell at Carlsbad, California’s Museum of Making Music back in 2007, drawing a rather conservative crowd—a group of listeners that was expecting, perhaps, a traditional approach to the standards—grumblings could be heard in the folding chaired audience, hushed comments like, “Why doesn’t he play “How Deep is the Ocean” straight? I almost couldn’t recognize it.”
The term “rubato” refers to a flexibility in approach to tempo, the speeding up or slowing down of the rhythm at the artists’ discretion. Nobody does this quite as furiously as Hal Galper, and with bassist Jeff Johnson and drummer John Bishop, he has hooked up with two like-minded compatriots.
Previous Galper recordings in this style include Agents of Change (Fabola Records, 2006), Furious Rubato (Origin Records, 2007), and Art-Work (Origin Records, 2009). All of these are exciting musical adventures, but E Pluribus Unum—with, again, Johnson and Bishop—is the most electrifying of the batch, due certainly to the on-the-edge freshness and vitality of the sound’s live aspect.
Irving Berlin’s “How Deep is the Ocean” opens the show, and it is a turbulent sea, wind whipped and wildly churning. The trio plays with a sense of abandon, but the thread of the familiar melody doesn’t break. Other non-originals include a particularly prickly version of Duke Ellington’s “Take the Coltrane,” and a calamitous reading of Charlie Parker’s “Constellation” to close the show. In between, Galper includes four tunes from his own pen, starting with the searing, headlong “Rapunzel’s Luncheonette,” the reflective but still energetic “Wandering Spirit,” and the aptly-titled “Invitation to Openness.”
The appreciative crowd, the night of this recording at the 2009 Earshot Jazz Festival, accepted that invitation, and E Pluribus Unum permanently documents Galper taking his artistry to a new level.
2009 Jazz Critics Poll by Geoffrey Himes, The Village Voice
Hal Galper / Reggie Workman / Rashied Ali, “Art-Work”
TOP TEN NEW RELEASES 2009
Hal Galper: Art-Work (Origin)
by Bill Barton, Coda
The Harvard Dictionary of Music defines rubato as: “An elastic, flexible tempo involving slight accelerandos and ritordandos that alternate according to the requirements of musical expression.” Pianist Hal Galper’s liner notes elucidate quite eloquently his theories regarding rubato, parsing the basic pulse, “bending and shaping” the melody and harmony and ñ as he emphasizes ñ “”you have to swing whatever tempo you’re playing either basic, subdivided or superimposed.” The proof is in the pudding as the old clichÈ goes, and this CD swings in a complex circular fashion unlike anything else I’ve heard recently: freedom and form dance on a balance beam with no missteps. Two Miles Davis pieces (“Milestones” and “Miles Ahead”), Trane’s “Naima,” four Galper originals and a lovely introspective composition by bassist Johnson titled “Zen” are on the program. The opening “Milestones” sets the bar high in a bustling, multi-faceted interpretation. There are many highlights, including the aforementioned “Zen” and Galper’s “Chromatic Fantasy.” Bishop’s drumming is unfailingly imaginative and fervid. If you think that there’s nothing “new” or “original” to be heard in the piano-bass-drums trio format this CD will likely change your mind. This is fresh, invigorating music played with passion, soul, precision and razor-sharp intellect.
Stuart Broomer, Toronto Life / CODA, 2006-10-05
This 2006 release (FABCD#11) can be found on Fabola reords. It might as well be called fabulous records. The music is great and so is the sonic quality of the recording. This CD takes you on a journey of creativity and is a lesson on how to play together as a trio, play great melodies ‘in the moment’, and with phrasing. It will be in my CD player for a while. Digesting this level of playing takes a while. This is not your typical commercial jazz radio station playlist material (3 cuts are over 11 or 12 minutes long). It’s art music, and I mean that in a good way
The music is played with a ‘loose’ feel most of the time, with the drummer and bassist playing around the pulse rather than just stating it in a more typical ding-ding-ding-dica-ding (ride cymbal) way. Every cut draws you in and has something to say. When the drums and bass on a few tunes do break in to a steady pulse, it’s that much more exciting. It reminds me of the steady quartet gig (1980’s) I had with Steve Davis (former Coltrane bassist) where he would sometimes play in a two feel for what seemed a dozen choruses on a tune and I’m thinking “When is he…?”… but how sweet it was when 4/4 came along after that anticipation! About seven minutes in on Liquid Audio (Galper original) it gets really intense. The phrasing of all three players is absolutely beautiful. Hal’s piano voicings have the most amazingly thick but wonderful harmonic crunches, especially in dear Old Stockholm. Dynamics and emotion are also here in abundance, which just makes it that more enjoyable. Although there were many, the piano line at 1:45 through 2:03 was a special moment for me.
The playing is ‘in the moment’ as I said earlier. You know it when you hear it, and you know that’s the best stuff. Sonar, an original by Hal, has a up tempo groove at 3:00 in and then descends into wildness. I listened to this on a NAD stereo with Paradigm Studio 20 monitors and loved the overall sound and mix. One little moment – the 3 rd last chord in E.S.P. seemed like the piano voicing had 1 or 2 extra notes against the bass root that my ears said was not on purpose but this is real jazz and playing at the edge and at this level is fantastic. I also would have like more of the cuts to break out of the loose feel, but that’s my own preference. The title of this CD, the apparent vision, and playing are all in agreement here making Agents of Change a ‘must-have’.
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