June 25, 2024

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A jazz musician either gets this distinction or doesn’t: Videos

Sophistication is widely admired but little understood. There’s no secret formula for creating something considered sophisticated nor are there any classes that teach it. Sophistication is simply a higher level of caring and soulfulness that comes from the heart, not the mind.

Complexity is often mistaken for being sophisticated. In truth, complexity is almost always long-winded, overly rendered, difficult to understand and boring. A jazz musician either gets this distinction or doesn’t. Pianist Leslie Pintchik gets it.

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As I wrote when reviewing her last album, True North, Leslie brings depth and thought to everything she plays. On her new album, You Eat My Food, You Drink My Wine, You Steal My Girl, Leslie plays with complete engagement. She surfaces melancholy and joy through unusual chord voicings, well-placed pedal tones and bell-like tones in her melody lines. There’s always a mood to Leslie’s approach, a breathy feel that comes from caring and a natural understanding of the instrument’s personality. In this regard, she plays the keyboard as if it’s a harp.

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Six of the eight tracks on her new album are originals, and all have an elegant sheerness, like the hushed swish of a dress, the inward blowing of a thin curtain or the stroke of a hand. For example, the title track is a feline soul-jazz piece with an easy funky feel. The title comes from a line overheard by Leslie when crossing New York’s Canal Street. Mortal is more urgent and haunting, with a stillness and sadness that reminds me of Jimmy Rowles’s The PeacocksHopperesque has a nocturnal tone and can serve as an apt backdrop to any of painter Edward Hopper’s night scenes illuminated solely by streetlights, porch lights or the moon. Hopper’s Summer Evening (1947) came to mind when I heard the song (painting above). Shoko Nagai’s accordion is added to this one, giving it a Buenos Aires shading.

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Happy Dog
 is a perky work that also features light touches of accordion. As with many songs on the album, Leslie never pounds on the keyboard but always delivers cleans swinging lines as if whispering the notes in your ear. The two standards—I’m Glad There Is You and Smoke Gets in Your Eyes—are transformed in Leslie’s hands. She brilliantly avoids the cliche traps in both. I’m Glad There Is You is a sultry sashay and Smoke Gets In Your Eyes is taken at a mid-tempo ballad, transforming it’s original intent. [Leslie Pintchik, above, at New York’s Kitano recently]

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My favorite song on the album has all the makings of a jazz standard. Leslie recorded A Simpler Time on her Quartets album in 2008. But here, the execution is more cohesive and straightforward. The mood is nostalgic, but hardly sad or regretful. Instead, it’s a look back to earlier years without melodramatic yearning or regrets. It’s simply a recollection in passing. And a sophisticated one at that.

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The album features Ron Horton on trumpet and flugelhorn and Steve Wilson on alto saxophone on selected tracks. Plus Michael Sarin on drums, Satoshi Takeishi on percussion and Leslie’s sensitive soul mate, husband Scott Hardy, on bass.

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