Martin Bejerano is the latest example of yet another superb pianist who finally has a chance to record after paying his dues throughout five years of working in Roy Haynes’ and Russell Malone’s groups. How many more jazz artists like Bejerano are in the wings, awaiting the break for broad public exposure too?
Now that Bejerano has his own group and has access to the listener’s attention, he starts his debut CD with a whirlwind of notes and rhythms on his own composition, "Blues Evolution." Consisting of syncopated accents prodding his swirling melody, "Blues Evolution" contains its own identifying motive of single-note rising and falling fifths employed as a signature device throughout Berjerano’s forceful improvisation. What’s more, Bejerano is fairly astounding in the way his hands oppose one another, as if playing independently and still sympathetically, one hand’s rhythm being a being a contrast to the other’s.
Hard to believe, but Bejerano’s empathetic trio never performed outside of the studio, except for the rehearsals to go over the songs for Evolution/Revolution. Who are these guys? you may ask. And why haven’t I heard of them? you may ask further. Good questions. Bassist Edward Perez contributes to the overall success of the shifting rhythms of "Blues Evolution" with his own accomplished solo. And drummer Ludwig Afonso rises to the challenge of Bejerano’s technical ferocity not just by keeping up, but by heightening the excitement. Berjerano’s trio is so accomplished and is so like-minded in their pursuit of the essence of the music that without information about the members, one would expect it to have the maturity of musicians twice their age.
Bejerano follows up the cyclonic "Blues Evolution" with a subdued version of "Lover Man," reharmonizing it slightly and indulging in light swing. But that light swing doesn’t last long. Subsequent choruses raise the intensity of Bejerano’s version so that they become a progressive ascent instead of repeated cycles of improvisation. Though Bejerano is thoroughly immersed in jazz now, he recalls his Cuban heritage in "Cubano Arrepentido," even as he mixes the Cuban musical allusions with the other genres that he has absorbed throughout his musical learning, education and experience (for he earned his master’s degree from the University of Florida before moving to New York). Yet again, Bejerano commands the listener’s attention with power increases in volume at climactic points only to fall into undulating calmness, his playing oceanic in the way its lower-volume pools of sound evolve into waves that carry along the listener. In the midst of the performance, despite its excitement, Bejerano’s careful attention to touch, to warm resonance, is evident.
After Bejerano’s jaw-dropping displays of technique early on Evolution/Revolution, he mines the nuggets of beauty within "You Don’t Know What Love Is" by playing emotionally in less complicated fashion, but with insightful investigations of the song’s harmonic possibilities.
Later in the CD, Bejerano reveals the sources of his jazz development by playing "Bouncing with Bud," initially with chiming appeal with note-perfect accuracy, infectious energy and obvious reverence for Bud Powell’s style, not copied but instead honored. Bejerano’s versoin of "Solar," appears to be insouciant, exploratory and carefree during the spidery introduction of webbed notes, until, as usual, he and his trio build the swing into something irresistible.
Bejerano’s "Monk’s Dream," sonically rich with his own chords avoiding possible dissonances, moves from a statement of theme into other patterns he toys with as his strong left-hand work jolts and jabs.
As Bejerano ends the album as he began, witth an impressive display of individualistic virtuosity, "Blues Revolution" again lets it be known that Bejerano, while informed of the jazz tradition, creates his own rhythmic and harmonic pathways for an original and delightful musical journey. Martin Bejerano, thankfully, reminds us once again that jazz and the piano trio format are alive and thriving with freshness and creative vitality.