Two hands to do the deed. Eight note in a search of a scale. Nine songs in 45 minutes, and 88 keys at his command. So, what is a solo pianist to do now?
Well, for Jim Hegarty, the options presented above form an aural playground where five originals and four standards receive random reorganizations as infinite melodic possibilities are stretched this way, that way, and – oh, hell, why not?! – that way, too.
Hegarty’s Cut it/out (Noise Reduction Society) is best described as a soundtrack for a free-writing, free-thinking foray. At Hegarty’s creative command, the piano is transformed into a one-man band where percussive effects, strings, runs, restraints and ruminations rule.
Cut it/out’s multiple paths and personalities display themselves pronto on “Nu Skool Boogie,” the opening cut. Through Hegarty’s hands, listeners meet the level-headed left hand and its raucous right hand. As the raucous one’s fingers run and explore with abandon, “Level Lefty” is always there, maintaining control, offering intermittent comments from the lower register. This two-handed dialogue could be compared to a younger person with a high-pitched voice expressing delight about life’s possibilities, while a lower-pitched voice, measured and mature, speaks slowly, keeping the situation -- and, in this case, the song -- under control.
Hegerty’s interpretation of Mercer and Mancini’s “Moon River” is also quite impressive. The improvisations here resemble a painter splashing various colors onto his canvass and joyfully rearranging them at will. Whenever Hegarty touches upon the song’s melody, his imagination eagerly adds an array of alternative notes for further consideration.
As Cut it/out’s first half progresses, the improvisations become deeper and more abstract. For “Bubblewrap,” Hegarty’s hand goes inside the piano, where he strokes the strings while answering himself with notes played sparingly in the high register. As sparse as these notes are, one can almost hear the conversation of ideas in Hegarty’s head:
“How ‘bout this?!”
“Well, perhaps, but how ‘bout…this?!”
While Hegarty makes the piano’s insides his personal “string section” again on “What when, said it,” and “God Bless the Child,” he also uses space and the instrument’s foot pedals to achieve a percussive effect on “Impressions.” Here, Hegarty stays closest to the melody, at times playing chords, thereby showing a different “in” side. Hegarty enhances “Impressions” by pressing down on the pedals in a way that makes them sound as if a muted percussion instrument is accompanying him. The pedals’ sustain effect, combined with the bright colors from the piano’s upper register, makes this interpretation the most substantial statement on a very personal and original recording.