Aaron Diehl – Space , Time, Continuum

Aaron Diehl "Space Time Continuum"I couldn’t wait to hear the wondrous tone of Joe Temperley on the baritone saxophone, that’s why I started to listen to this CD with the second track, “The Steadfast Titan”, on which Joe imbues his playing with a lot of dark colors and a beefy tone. It is a pure joy to listen to him play on this Billy Strayhorn-like composition (there are echoes of “A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing”) and yes, it is Joe who could be called the steadfast titan here. But wait, there is another one: Not only the 85-year old Joe Temperley graces this profound album, but also 86-year old Benny Golson!

But first things first: this is Aaron’s second album for Mack Avenue after having released two live albums (the first for the label was the brilliant “The Bespoke Man’s Narrative” in 2013). He’s been seen over the years as accompanist for singer Cécile McLorin Salvant and continues in the line of great pianists like John Lewis or Barry Harris or Tommy Flanagan. Or Walter Davis, Jr. for that matter, who composed the opening track “Uranus” and is a great hardbop showcase piece here.

The relatively short “Flux Capacitor” features tenor saxophonist Stephen Riley and sounds like a late 50s/early 60s Benny Golson record (circa “Groovin’ With Golson”, 1959). And Mr. Golson can be heard here as well: first on the very long piece “Organic Consequence” where he is featured on a very soulful, at times bluesy, yet always fascinatingly swinging solo which spans like over 60 years of saxophone playing. David Wong on bass bridges the piece in the middle before Aaron sets in to make way for trumpeter Bruce Harris, an interesting choice to pair him with Mr. Golson since Benny had played extensively with Art Farmer in the Jazztet. This really sounds like a modern-day Jazz Messengers tune with fundamental playing throughout.

“Kat’s Dance” was written by fellow pianist Adam Birnbaum and is really a sparkling piano piece with a Waltz-like character and very earthy sax by Stephen Riley again. It transforms into an almost classical piece in the middle section with the sax/piano duo in a marvelous dialogue, complete with excess drama and back to some sweet romanticism. “Santa Maria”, a commissioned piece by Aaron’s hometown Columbus, Ohio, is another trio piece where drummer Quincy Davis is at work a lot. This dynamic track has all the right ingredients for a perfect trio sound. Deep, powerful, and eclectic.

The much too short “Broadway Boogie Woogie”, a whimsical two-minute chaos, finally opens the door to the title track with lyrics by McLorin Salvant and vocals by Charenee Wade, who will release her own new album with the music of Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson later this month. After the Gospel/Blues-like opening sequence with Charenee’s majestic vocals, the band chimes in with Bruce Harris and then Benny Golson again. I could have lived without the scatting at the end but space and time continues here with a playful fade.

Catch him at the Rochester Jazz Festival June 23rd and 24th and in Europe at the Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia on July 18th, Duc des Lombards in Paris on July 24th, and the Schloss Elmau Festival in Germany on July 25th.

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