Pianist David Janeway has just released his third trio recording, Distant Voices. The album features Janeway's working trio with Billy Hart on drums and Cameron Brown on bass. On Distant Voices, Janeway looks back in tribute at the Jazz pianists who have influenced him all throughout his career.
Some of the selections were written in tribute to pianists like Herbie Hancock and Ahmad Jamal while others were written by composers that had pianists like Bill Evans and Duke Ellington to make them famous.
Sweet and Lovely (Gus Arnheim, composer) was covered by pianists from Thelonious Monk to Vince Guaraldi to Bill Evans to Cecil Taylor. Janeway brings his own sensibilities and talents to the standard and Brown and Hart add their own unique voices. Cameron Brown’s bass is worth special attention. He keeps you off-footed and it is great fun. The trio picks up a Latin rhythm in the last third of the piece and it works well. Pianist Hank Jones’ Minor Contention follows. Again, Brown takes over the Paul Chambers bass lines and the results are so fine. Janeway works over the drive of Billy Hart’s drumming beautifully. By the end of this, the second track, you are well aware that this is going to be a great trip.
Following Mercer Ellington’s Blue Serge, with its beautifully swaying melody and cool rhythms, Woody Shaw’s Moontrane, with its bounce and bop and propulsive rhythms, is Gary Peacock’s Gardenia. Peacock played with the best of them—Bill Evans, Paul Bley, and Keith Jarrett. The Peacock album, Guamba, which featured Gardenia as the closing track, was with Gary Peacock on bass, Peter Erskine on drums, Palle Mikkelborg on trumpet, and Jan Garbarek on saxes. There was no piano but the voices of the horns were perfectly suitable for Janeway’s version on piano. Still, Brown magnificently handles the Peacock basslines and the result is a delightful marvel.
Next comes the first of the Janeway originals and, honestly, this is what we have been waiting for. And they are worth the wait. One for Cedar is a tribute to Cedar Walton. Janeway says of Walton that he was “a prolific composer of consistently interesting tunes that are great vehicles for improvisation. He always plays meaningful, clear, articulate lines and is a master of comping.” Janeway nails it.
Freddie Hubbard’s Brigitte comes right after and Janeway takes to the Fender Rhodes like George Cables played on the Hubbard original. It is sweet and lilting, like the original, and Janeway and the fellas work it so well.
Janeway brings up another original, Excursion, in honor of Herbie Hancock and Joe Henderson. Janeway wanted “to include an up-tempo piece that would be more open and expansive with the freedom to improvise modally.” Once again, Janeway shoots and scores. This one deserves multiple replays. In Passing is another Janeway original and was actually composed in the 1990s but was brought back into light with the more seasoned view of what grief looks and feels like. It is melancholic without being too mournful, sad but not sickly, and all three of the trio are mindful of what Janeway had in mind.
Arthur Altman’s All Or Nothing At All is from John Coltrane’s album, Ballads. This was from 1963 with the finest group Coltrane ever put together. This cover is one of the highlights of Janeway’s album. Cameron Brown turns in a performance that would have made Jimmy Garrison proud and Billy Hart gets an extended solo that allows him to develop on what Elvin Jones started. But David Janeway takes the opportunity to show his admiration and affection for McCoy Tyner. This one is a treasure.
Pair that with Wayne Shorter’s Nefertiti and you’ve got a reason to stay home nights and listen to this album until the wee hours. The song was the title track of the Miles Davis album that featured Herbie Hancock on piano, Ron Carter on bass, and Tony Williams on drums. Janeway returns to the Fender Rhodes and does the song great honor. In fact, all three artists give their own voice to the song and turn out a wonder.
The album closes with the Janeway original Movin’ On, a tribute to the passing of Larry Willis, the excellent Jazz pianist who had played in Blood, Sweat & Tears. The guy could play it all and Janeway shows that he can, as well.
Distant Voices is a remarkable recording from David Janeway, proving once again why he gets the call from greats like Benny Golson and Bobby Sanabria and performs at all the landmark Jazz spots in New York City and beyond. He is worth the attention.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl