John Colianni is a gifted pianist with a strong interest in swing and early bebop. Jazz is a very historically conscious genre, even as it is always moving forward. Still, even among the most historically minded contingent of modern jazz, Colianni sounds positively old-fashioned. The pianist keeps one foot squarely in a 1940s swing aesthetic, and, by the sheer joy of his playing, he obviously deeply loves the music he is drawing from. That said, one is not likely to confuse this recording with a swing recording from the 1940s. Colianni has a modern flair that is apparent both in his harmonically complex solos and his occasionally involved compositions. Even at its most complicated though, this music is always swinging, and swinging easy at that.
"Apple Honey" roars out of the gate with a speedy swing reminiscent of Oscar Peterson's classic trio with Herb Ellis and Ray Brown. "52nd Street theme" is an absolutely dazzling bop workout featuring some of Colianni's most difficult and inspired soloing. "Gone with "What" Wind" will have listeners who have forgotten the joys of good old-fashioned swing searching through their record collection for Benny Goodman's classic small group recordings.
While his treatment of standards is always impressive, it is Colianni's originals that provide On Target with its finest moments. "One For Jimmy Hicks" is a pretty, shimmering original that provides a welcome breath amongst all the instrumental fireworks. "Quintet Symphonette" establishes a contemplative mood as a simple melodic motif gently repeats over floating and descending chords. The composition rolls through the blues, syncopated rhythms, and quick unison sections before opening up into Colianni's now familiar easy swing. Moments like these prove that Colianni is no mere revivalist, but a notable composer in his own right. The pianist's band provides solid but swinging support, with Justin Lees' distinctive trebly and reverb laden guitar solos standing out in particular. Recommended for fans of traditional jazz, swing and bop.