by Tom Haugen
Micah Graves, Pawns
At this inception into the instrument, Micah Graves was playing classical piano, but it wasn’t long until his focus shifted to jazz, and while finishing up his education he started penning songs that would turn him into a very prolific artist.
Pawns, his first of three albums to be recorded in 2022, has Graves meshing funk, bebop and jazz into a very animated formula that welcomes a small handful of esteemed musicians.
The album opens with the swift and dynamic title track, where Graves’ keys are met with Robby Cruz’s bright trumpet and Shafiq Hicks’ sparing but effective vocals, and “Spirit” follows with Yesseh Ali’s flowing sax and Julian Miltenberger’s proficient drumming complementing Danielle Dougherty’s soulful pipes.
In the middle, “Inner Beast” mesmerizes us with soaring brass as meticulous keys and plenty of atmosphere is present, while “Fed Up” features Dick Oats on alto saxophone in the sophisticated landscape that benefits much from Zach Guise’s playful bass work.
Near the end, “When We Fall” showcases Dougherty’s diverse and pretty vocals in the lush album highlight, and “The Hague” exits the listen warm and spirited, where Zach Fischer’s agile guitar and Cruz’s trumpet don’t disappoint.
A very unpredictable outing, the mixed meter, odd time signatures and wealth of harmony present makes for an exceptional listen, and it will be exciting to see what else Graves has in store for 2022. “