Robert Mitchell ‘The Glimpse’ CD (Whirlwind Recordings) 3/5

The intricacies of being a left-handed piano player are, it is probably safe to say, not common knowledge, and pianist Robert Mitchell deserves great credit for attempting this ambitious project which aims to highlight piano compositions that either are specifically tailored for the left-handed individual or at the very least pay homage to the virtues or otherwise of the left-hander. In his instructive line notes, Mitchell makes reference to left-handed jazz pianists such as Phineas Newborn and Kenny Drew, while others have, on occasion, been forced to use their left hand when temporarily incapacitated on their right, Bill Evans 1963 live performances at the Village Vanguard being a case in point. If this is indeed a valid musical exploration, then it does actually lead on to any interesting music? Catalan composer Federico Mompou composed one of his six piano preludes for the left hand and the ‘Prelude no. 6’ performed here has a pared down Satie feel to it. There are elements of Debussy on another piece ‘Zuni lore’ and it is surprising that Mitchell did not include one of Ravel’s most famous piano pieces intended for left-handers. More contemporary flavours arrive in the quicker tempoed ‘A Confession’ while ‘The Sage’ is one of the most melodic numbers on offer. For a slice of contemporary jazz composition, Fred Hersch’s ‘Nocturne for the left hand alone’ makes for an intriguing listen. One criticism that one might make of the project overall is that the compositions focus almost exclusively on classical pieces (Hersch being a notable exception) and it would have made for a more varied listen to have some more jazz-inspired numbers included even if that meant using a piano trio. Robert Mitchell is currently on the final part of a lengthy UK tour that continues until mid-May.

Tim Stenhouse

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