RJ is a keyboardist of such skills that he's been able to, while still young, earn his keep as a musician and music teacher for a decade and a half. Ask any musician you know: that ain't easy and ya better be at the top of your game 24/7/365 or else make a beeline to the unemployment office. The backlog of luminaries chasing after his skilled hands includes Erykah Badu and Dave Loeb, but the choice of Herbie Hancock's Dolphin Dance to start up this disc was a telling point, 'cause RJ's not at all out of place in taking the master's work under his own ministrations. What he does with the classic cut will have Herbie himself grinning like a Cheshire Cat.
Then, in I Took a Chance on Loving You, Julian Tanaka enters with sax wailing, and the trad vibe expands appreciably, RJ providing choppy chords in the background and to the side, bouncing all around the guy. He in fact grants Tanaka tons of space, and Julian keeps turning the melody around and around unjtil RJ saunters in with his own improv, maintaining the same staccato left hand as the right dances all over the place. Ah, but check out his mash-up of Suicide is Painless with Miles' classic Nardis, swingin' from the git-go, cascades and subtle atonalities everywhere.
The liner notes credit adjuncts of R&B, hip-hop, and such to the oeuvre here, but frankly I couldn't disagree more. This is superb old-school jazz through and through—leavened, true, with a modern hand but ringing clearly with Herbie, older Jarrett (the delicious Redman days), Bill Evans' classicality, and, among many virtues, an intelligence that's crystal clear, injected straight into the gent's fingertips, where amazing things happen, so pay close attention. RJ goes through more changes in one minute than others manage in an entire album: the self-penned New Beginnings is more than ample proof of that.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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