Tuomo Uusitalo: piano; Myles Sloniker: bass; Itay Morchi: drums; Chris Cheek: saxophone Recorded 28th and 29th September 2018 by Alessio Romano at Studio 42, Brooklyn
Finnish pianist and composer Uusitalo has been part of the New York jazz scene for the past six years or so, and has a residency at Smalls Jazz Club. This is his third album (following ‘Trio’ in 2012 and ‘Love Song’ in 2016). It tells us something about the talents of the pianist when we hear Chris Cheek playing such a prominent role in this set, not just sitting in but delivering some delightfully complex and lyrical solos that bounce off and inspire Uusitalo’s playing on half the tunes on the set; the other half are performed by the trio. The set features a bunch of Uusitalo originals alongside pieces by Monk (‘Boo-boo’s birthday’, track 5), Ellington (‘Solitude’, track 7) and Powell (‘Bouncin’ with Bud’, track 9), as well as Irving Berlin (‘Best thing for you (would be me)’, track 3). These three pianists give you some sense of the group’s approach to music. They have a relaxed swing and focus on creating easy to catch melodies. The hook on ‘Be good or be gone’, the opening track, is a case in point. The piece is built as a seven-bar blues, referencing a motto of McSorley’s Old Ale House in New York. Notice that this tune uses seven bars, and this is another of the interesting quirks of the group. They create tunes that seem simple, but have all manner of complexities that can be lost on the first listen. I like the way that the two tone poems in the set reflects classical music while also retaining a sense of jazz improvisation.