Aaron Diehl – The Bespoke Man’s Narrative
(Mack Avenue MAC 1066. CD Review by Chris Parker)
As well as referring (via ‘bespoke’) to the fact that each piece on this, pianist/composer Aaron Diehl’s debut Mack Avenue recording, is specifically tailored to the band employed upon it (vibraphonist Warren Wolf, bassist David Wong, drummer Rodney Green), the album’s title also contains the idea that, in Diehl’s words, ‘There’s a sequence, an arc … each piece has something to do with my musical development.’
Accordingly, the music of his two chief inspirations, Duke Ellington (via his stint in the Ellington-specialising band, the Columbus Youth Jazz Orchestra) and John Lewis (he helped organise the late MJQ leader’s musical archive in his sophomore year at Juilliard) has left readily discernible traces in Diehl’s approach and repertoire: Ellington’s ‘Single Petal of a Rose’ is given a reverent solo interpretation executed ‘like a piece of classical music’; Milt Jackson’s ‘The Cylinder’ gets an elegant, tastefully bluesy quartet airing, notable for its MJQ-like mix of poise and carefully controlled robustness.
A visit to ‘Moonlight in Vermont’ brings another great jazz pianist, Ahmad Jamal (particularly his Pershing recordings), to mind, courtesy of its buoyancy and telling use of space; Ravel’s ‘Le Tombeau de Couperin’appealed to the classically trained pianist in Diehl (who ‘started young with Bach’), courtesy of ‘the richness of the harmony and the harmonic movement’.
His own compositions, too, have a light, fleet airiness that bring both Jamal and the MJQ to mind, flawlessly played as they are by a brisk, responsive band, and overall, this is an impressive showcase – polished and carefully arranged into a recital, rather than a jazz ‘set’ – for a bright, cultured pianist leading a quartet which, he hopes, ‘will develop and refine a band sound’ rendering this recording ‘just a starting point, something on which to build and invest’.