Tuesday, May 15, 2018
Misha Piatigorsky Trio's Stained Glass and Technicolor Grooves
Imagine a jazz event, one that's called something like "Jazz at the GRJC." So far, so good. You find out that it's the "first annual" occasion for the event, and you think of Themistocles and maybe how great things have small beginnings. Then you find out that GRJC stands for the Glen Rock Jewish Center, straight out of Glen Rock, New Jersey, and perhaps you start thinking that this is going to be a much smaller event than anticipated. Then you actually listen to this recording of the Misha Piatigorsky Trio, performed live at yes, the first annual "Jazz at the GRJC," and suddenly you have a whole new perspective.
Why the change of heart? In a word, the MPT is magnificent, and this performance sounds like a great undiscovered recording from fifty or sixty years ago. Misha Piatigorsky's piano is a marvel--one minute it is as smooth and lush and gorgeous of a piano sound that one can achieve playing jazz, and then he shifts into a wild, jagged improvisation full of new and dissonant ideas that all circle back to that lushness like a perfectly thrown boomerang. Misha is known for straddling these two modes, and it's breathtaking to listen to him swing like a pendulum from a warm affinity for melodies to a singular sense of adventure.
His trio consists of bassist Charlie Dougherty and drummer Sam Fishman, and on the last three tracks the trio becomes a quartet when Sam's brother Jeremy joins in on sax. Sam is the guiding force here, surprisingly enough--he is the one who started the "Jazz at the GRJC" and he wanted Misha to play because considers him to be "one of the best pianists in the jazz scene." Dougherty is longtime friend of Sam's, so the ensemble definitely has chemistry as well as history.
What makes the gathering so special is Misha's unique arrangements of such classics Cannonball Adderley's "Inside Straight," Mongo Santamaria's "Afro Blue" and even a deeply dug interpretation of "Pure Imagination," yep, the one right out of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Mixed with several Piatigorsky originals, these ten tracks are epic in structure. This trio never takes the easy way out, thriving instead on "the spark of spontaneity," as Sam Fishman says. This is one piano trio that sounds like no other, and hopefully they will return to the second annual "Jazz at the GRJC" concert. If they don't, the smallish crowd who attended the first gig will probably remember this performance for many years to come.