Monday, April 2, 2012

Hal Galper at Ivories Part 2

Hal Galper

I made the second set of Hal Galper's trio at Ivories on Sunday(I was on baby duty before that. Liam wanted to "go to a Chuggington Store", so jazz was not on his agenda for that day...). From the first note, I felt the New York vibe in the music (although the bassist and drummer were from Seattle...go figure.) The first tune was a 4/4 uptempo(very fast) version of "Alice In Wonderland". I couldn't help thinking that this fast yet floaty approach was similar to Brad Mehldau's approach to playing standards. Unfortunately, Galper is not as young and pretty as Mehldau, so he's not showered with constant accolades, but what else is new....

It was interesting to watch Galper; like many trained pianists, he didn't need to look at his hands often. Instead, he kept visual contact with the bassist and drummer. Galper has a strong touch, but can be sensitive when needed. He seemed to have endlessly inventive lines, and rhythmically, it was very "loose", yet the trio always seemed to come back around. Bassist Jeff Johnson, whom I've had the pleasure of playing with a number of times, followed Galper well, and was able to roll with the musical punches, always smiling. Drummer John Bishop's playing reminded me of New York drummer Jeff Hirschfield, or maybe even a more free Joe Chambers; the ride cymbal was very focused, insistent, but always tasteful, and the drums never overpowered the music. An interesting version of the ballad "I Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out To Dry" was somewhat challenging to follow, because as the trio played the set, the time seemed to get looser and looser by the minute(but in a good way). It was a nice contrast to some of the more aggressive numbers, like a free blowing tune called "Get Up And Go". The set culminated with another barn burner surprise; the great Mario Lanza would have been shocked to hear Galper's light speed version of "Be My Love."

Galper is a great example of why musicians who have "paid dues" are more interesting to listen to than the not-yet-seasoned; they KNOW a million hip tunes, they KNOW what to do on the bandstand, they KNOW how to pace a set, and they KNOW how to play changes and not be predictable, because they have years of experience doing it. They have WISDOM. They are comfortable on the bandstand. It's as easy for them to play great jazz as it is for us to drink a glass of water. I lamented that more folks weren't there to learn from this master, but what else is new.......

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