Over a 30-year career, composer/pianist Kirk Nurock has shown a flair for the unexpected. At 16, he was selected by Duke Ellington for a scholarship to the Eastman School of Music summer school. He has performed with Chet Baker, Sonny Stitt and Phil Woods and arranged for Leonard Bernstein and Dizzy. Nurock's Master's degree is from Julliard. His compositions draw from theater music, poetry, classical techiques, scat, jazz and, yes, live animal sounds!
Nurock's approach to the piano is equally eclectic. He is restless and probing. His solos move from classical to stride to boogie to free and back. He uses dissonance, minor keys, repeated notes and phrases, altered harmonies and alternative melodies. Monk meets Tatum in 2001!
Many solo piano CDs will have you wishing for a bass and drummer. Pianists who can carry off a solo performance usually accompany themselves with a bass line or stride. Kirk Nurock has more left/right hand independence than most, another reason that makes him the most interesting piano soloist I've heard in a long while. At times you will seem to hear two pianos.
This CD was recorded live at gigs in the US and Germany and the emphasis is on exploring standards. In a languid "Always" Nurock builds from hs classical technique. He plays "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" from the outside in-from improvisation to melody. "Do Nothin' Til You Hear From Me" opens with a bass vamp and includes some exceptional work at the top of the keyboard. "Solitude" starts with solemnity, ends with stride, with a beautiful alternative melody in between. And then there's "Sweet Georgia Brown,"definitely not the Harlem Globetrotters version! Nurock also contributes two interesting originals. The lyrical"Still At Sea" is a voyage of the mind while "Morning at Michael's" reveals his gift for creating melodies that stay with you.
Some piano jazz is just a step removed from cocktai piano. Nurock's performance is light years away. He probes. He searches. Listen. You'll be rewarded.