JESSE STACKEN with EIVIND OPSVIK/JEFF DAVIS- That That (Fresh Sound NT 308; EEC) Featuring Jesse Stacken on piano, Eivind Opsvik on bass and Jeff Davis on drums. Ace pianist, Jesse Stacken, played here at DMG with Peter Van Huffel a few months back and just left us with copies of his fine debut disc. The rhythm section also backs Jeff's wife Kris in her trio, as well as in that recent jazz tribute to Black Sabbath (!?!) called 'Rocket Engine.'
Jesse composed all but two of the twelve pieces here with two group improvisations. I love how the trio erupts on the second piece, "Shady Oak," the dynamics and tension are bristling until Eivind takes a more contemplative bass solo and calms things down a bit. What amazes me is how tight this trio is and how they change direction, tempo and dynamics in mid-flow. In a blindfold test, you might just mistake them for Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams when they played for Miles. All but one of the pieces here are under five minutes, so the trio seems to compress their ideas into highly focused excursions. "Sad Sidewalk" is angelic, spacious, minimal and elegant without being too sweet. This trio has a way of being dramatic one minute and then simmering the next, reminding me of the way that life sometimes unfolds. On "North Shore," Jesse develops a couple of different themes as the trio hangs on to the powerful waves of his left hand while his right hand burns on top. Each piece here seems to tell a little story or set a different scene and each one is distinct. Jesse, again, works with a couple of different themes on "Ignored," one is Monk-like while circles around and expands upon that quirky stream. The way it builds into intense wave and then subsides is quite breathtaking. Without a doubt, one of the best piano dates we've heard so far this year.
- Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery.
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