Jamie Reynolds (p), Gary Wang (b), Eric Doob (d)
Bar code: 8427328424059
"A strong debut from an up-and-coming pianist worth hearing"
"...a tantalizing debut that adds to the piano trio vocabulary."
A gifted pianist and accomplished composer with an abundance of startlingly original ideas, Toronto native and current New York City resident Jamie Reynolds makes a potent statement on Time With People, his debut as a leader for the Fresh Sound New Talent label. Joining him on this impressive trio date are bassist Gary Wang and rising star drummer Eric Doob. Together they exhibit an indelible tightness and uncommon delicacy on a collection of Reynolds intriguing compositions, ranging from the darkly insinuating Miel Coeur and the evocative Morning Sun to more dynamic offerings like the driving Cold Spring and the intricate, densely harmonic title track. Along the way, Reynolds reveals traces of his piano mentors Fred Hersch and Craig Taborn, both of whom he studied with privately in New York, as well as key influences like Keith Jarrett and Lennie Tristano. But the depth of his compositional vision remains uniquely his own on this auspicious first outing.
Born in 1982, Reynolds grew up in Toronto in a musical household. His father Jeff was a classical trumpet player and educator and his mother Deirdre, a classical pianist (she turned pages for Keith Jarrett at a performance of Bachs Italian Concerto while pregnant with Jamie) was his first piano teacher. A direct descendant of Muzio Clementi, 18th century composer and keyboard virtuoso who took part in piano duels with Mozart and was involved in the design and mass production of the modern piano, Reynolds was a self-described uncommitted musician as a youngster. I played piano just because I was forced to until I was about 14, when I started improvising. I had all this teenage angst that I needed to work out and improvising helped me feel better about myself at the time. So I was improvising and experimenting with synth overdubbing. I wanted to create these epic rhapsodies that Im sure were totally awful. But thats how I got into jazz. I was interested in it because it involved improvising and because my dad liked it.
Important records for Reynolds during his formative years included the Miles Davis Prestige boxed set (documenting his work from the 1950s) and Bill Evans classic trio recording, Sunday at the Village Vanguard. I also had a record by Michel Petrucciani called Music which I loved at the time, he recalls. Its really eclectic. Theres some vocal stuff, some South American stuff, some trio stuff, and I used to dance to that stuff all the time. This was also around the time that I got ahold of Keith Jarretts Koln Concert.
After establishing himself on the Toronto jazz scene, Reynolds met pianist Fred Hersch at a master class in his hometown. He later got a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts to study with Hersch, which brought him to the Big Apple in 2006 with his wife, vocalist Melissa Stylianou (who had a similar grant to study in New York with Theo Bleckmann). When I got to town and looked around at what was happening here, I realized that New York was such a big place with so many amazing musicians, and I just felt like I had no choice but to figure out something somewhat original or unique, or at least try for those things, he recalls. I just thought that the whole standards and bebop vocabulary thing was really well represented already by great people here, so the only thing to do was to figure out my own thing and write music that appealed to me. Because I did have my own sound in my head. Ive had that my whole life. Some of those sounds, along with invaluable lessons learned from mentors Hersch and Taborn, now manifest on Time With People.
The three kindred spirits set an interactive tone on the lyrical opener Ideas of North, which is buoyed by Reynolds mesmerizing left-hand ostinato and underscored by Doobs uncommonly sensitive and melodic brushwork in combination with Wangs contrapuntal bass lines. On the intricate Locks (Part One), Reynolds introduces a surging left-handed interval that works independently of his flowing right-handed harmonies and single note lines. Its bit of keyboard wizardry that he absorbed from endless hours of listening to Lennie Tristano. While Wang mirrors thatsixth interval (the same one used by Thelonious Monk on Misterioso), Doob busily freelances around the proceedings with brisk brushwork.
Singing School is a wistful, delicately swinging number in 3/4 that almost surreptitiously shifts to 9/8. Wang has an extended bass solo here and Doobs performance throughout is remarkably interactive and uncannily sensitive (at various points to underscore the triplet feel he plays with fingers instead of sticks on the snare drum). Reynolds exhibits a daring kind of openness on his revealing solo piano showcase Improvisation (View), which he says is based more on a mood or feeling than any style or form. He attributes this blank slate approach to his teacher Taborn. Craig is such a brilliant genius musician and studying with him really helped me open up a different side of my playing. His whole approach is sort of like an anti-stylistic thing. Whereas, players like a McCoy Tyner or Hank Jones have developed their own thing within a particular style of playing, Craig doesnt have a bag. He just wants to be able to respond, so hes trained himself to be able to play whatever occurs to him at any given moment. And I really took a lot from that.
The gentle, meditative Miel-Coeur shifts stealthily from 4/4 to individual bars of 5/8 and 7/8 that just flow by wherever the phrases just happen to fit. Its not a groove or a meter or anything like that, its just like a duration of time, explains Reynolds. Its predetermined on the page but its supposed to sound like Gary and Eric are just following my lead. What I was thinking there was certain tunes by John Lennon that just happen to have weird numbers of beats, like She Said She Said, where the bridge is just a number of odd beats happening. George Harrisons Here Comes the Sun has that too, where its a musical phrase and you count the beats after and it ends up being odd-numbered, butits actually a very natural sounding phrase.
The three highly empathetic musicians engage in a delicate rubato conversation on Locks (Part Two) and then hit a burning accord on the driving Cold Spring, which is fueled by Wangs Latin-flavored bass groove and Doobs exuberantly swinging, churning work on the kit. As Reynolds explains, Cold Spring was a work-in-progress for a long time. That piece out of three different sketches that I had for tunes. The opening part with that grooving bass line was inspired by a tune by Arcade Fire that has a similar bass line, and then I just wrote that melody on top of that. The section that has some strong left hand piano and bass activity playing in unison with the metric changes was from a completely different composition that I was trying to work on at the same time. It had a lot more stuff attached to it that eventually got dropped until I was left with this one little phrase that I realized would work really well if I stuck it on top of the other thing I had been working on. And then the third section -- the longer, linear, more melodic thing that comes after that, before the solos -- was yet another compositional sketch that I was working on that just didnt seem done on its own, but it worked as a complement to the other two sections. I had to really sit with it for a long time before it all made sense to me. And I would adjust one bar or one note every few weeks until finally I felt like it was ready.
Easily the most personal piece on Time With People is the solo piano piece Improvisation (Were All Here). As Reynolds explains, Its actually about something even though its an improvisation. It uses this 5/8 rhythm layered on top of itselfone in the right hand, one in the left hand, and they kind of overlap in a way that to me suggests two entities joining in part but still remaining separate from each other fundamentally. Its a rhythm that my mother taught me. She and I had this day where we were just clapping this rhythm to each other, but it took me a while to get what it was. So its basically about learning something from my mother. She died a couple years ago from cancer, so this piece is a pretty loaded one for me.
Morning Sun is another delicate, conversational number underscored by Doobs supple brushwork and Wangs complementary bass lines. Thats another one where the body of the composition involves some pretty dense harmony, explains Reynolds, but there are also some sections that open up all of a sudden. Its like the bottom drops out of it a couple of times and you can hear the density just melt away until suddenly were just free to do whatever we want. I was hearing some kind of Kurt Rosenwinkel-ish harmony on that one. Its voice leading but not traditional voice leading. More like free voice leading.
Locks (Part Three), a more dynamic variation on that theme running through Time With People, is essentially a showcase for Doobs prowess on the kit. Reynolds calls the hymn-like title track the simplest composition on the record, though it also resounds with great depth. Its 32 bars long and it uses a pretty straight ahead kind of rhythmic groove. Theres some kind of dense voice leading in the harmony of the tune but I was trying to keep themelody pretty singable and free of any kind of clutter. And I gave it that title because it had a real kind of simplicity and earthiness, which to me has to do with what Ive come to feel is important in life, which has to do with spending time with people. Keep it simple, focus on other people and spend time with them.
The collection closes with the lone cover tune, Reynolds contemplative solo piano interpretation of the Duke Ellington-Bobby Troup composition The Feeling of Jazz, which was introduced on the 1962 Impulse album Duke Ellington & John Coltrane. I love the tune so much and always have, says Reynolds. For a while that was my favorite record in the world. I could notstop listening to it and I still love it. And that track is one of my favorites. The way they play is so different but they just work together onthat record. For me, it symbolizes how broad jazz can be, how open and all-encompassing and welcoming jazz can be. If those two guys with such different approaches from different generations can make that record and it can sound that good, then you can do whatever you want, you know? Reynolds incorporates moving bass lines in a Lennie Tristano fashion while alluding to the melody before veering off into a free section and then returning to themelody. For me, its a way of expressing that idea that jazz music is very broad and can accommodate a lot of different sound and a lot of different personalities. And thats why I love it.
Time With People is an auspicious debut indeed by a formidable talent deserving of wider recognition.
"Pianist Jamie Reynolds completed his studies at the University of Toronto in 2004, but his work was hardly done at that point. Reynolds headed to New York a year later and, thanks to a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts, began studying with pianist Fred Hersch. A second grant afforded him the opportunity to study with Craig Taborn in 2007, giving him the chance to learn from another modern day master, but Reynolds' playing doesn't really bear the mark of either pianist. While he likely took their lessons to heart and absorbed their ideas, he's his own man. He clearly understands that musicians have to create their own identity in order to reach their full potential, and he's on his way to realizing that goal.
Time With People is Reynolds' leader debut and presents a piano trio that values group dialogue, flow, lyricism and flexibility over muscularity and showiness. Reynolds and his trio matesbassist Gary Wang and drummer Eric Doobhave an empathetic rapport and excellent communicative skills, both of which benefit the music at every turn. All three men are comfortable in their own skin, and in close quarters with one another, and they display a level of shared trust that allows the music to grow and flourish.
While Reynolds began writing some of these pieces as far back as 2006, none of them can really be considered old. He chose to let his ideas marinate and evolve over time and it paid off. His music has a sense of maturity and depth to it that can only come with careful consideration. Undulating lines, contemplative statements ("Improvisation (View)") and brightness with a sense of restraint ("Morning Sun") all coexist peacefully in Reynolds' world. Odd meters and shifting feels come into play, but they're used in service of Reynolds' songs rather than as clever ploys or parlor tricks.
Time With People is the type of album that gets better with each listen as a new wrinkle unfolds itself. This is thoughtful trio work in every sense of the idea."
-Dan Bilawski -All About Jazz (June 25, 2012)