Jason Rebello ‘Held’ CD/Dig (Edition) 4/5

jason-rebelloBritish pianist Jason Rebello first emerged in the early 1990s and at the time was pigeonholed in the fusion category with critically acclaimed albums on the BMG label, that nonetheless failed to capture the wider public’s imagination. Thereafter, Rebello focused more on sideman work, touring with Wayne Shorter’s band, then going on to replace the late Kenny Kirkland as keyboardist in Sting’s band. However, Jason Rebello has always been a devoted advocate of the acoustic piano setting and this has brought him back to two of his seminal pianistic influences, namely Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock who have recorded numerous solo albums separately and together, the latter of which served as a major inspiration to Rebello. This welcome new recording is an all original set bar the cover of a Lennon and McCartney evergreen, ‘Blackbird’, that has regularly been revisited by jazz musicians, in particular the wonderful rendition by fellow pianist, Brad Mehldau. Here, the Rebello reading of the standard has something of a Bach-esque quality in the introduction, following a separate riff and then goes into the famous main theme. While not quite as direct or compelling as the Mehldau interpretation, this nevertheless marks a distinctive personal imprint on the recording.

What comes across overall is the sheer melodicism of the playing and this is beautifully illustrated on a piece such as ‘As the dust settles’, which is expansive in outlook and has a slight Latin vibe to it. Ideally, this reviewer would like to hear this number with a full band also. The quasi-choral hues of the opener, ‘Pearl’, hint at the early 1970s ECM solo albums of Corea, and this is reinforced by the quiet, reposing nature of the piece. That tone is continued on the gentle contemplation of ‘Tokyo dream’ with a hypnotic riff into the bargain. Rebello as a mature musician does not feel the necessity to overly impress with dazzling technique, though he possesses that virtuosity in abundance, but instead had gone beyond that stage and is now firmly focused on communicating the musicality of his craft and that he achieves especially well here. This marks a new episode in Jason Rebello’s career and one that hopefully will catapult him into the higher echelons of jazz pianissimo. A fine debut recording for Edition from a now seasoned musician.

Tim Stenhouse