Tompkins Square has gifted the jazz world with a true gem: a smokin’ previously unreleased Mal Waldron solo piano concert from the height of his powers.
Waldron, a New York City-born pianist and composer, was known for playing with the likes of John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy and Charles Mingus, as well as being the last accompanist for Billie Holiday. Yet, he’s still a rather underrated artist, especially as a solo performer. Hopefully, his genius will soon be widely recognized thanks to the release of this excellent recording.
Captured at Grenoble, France, on March 23, 1978 as part of their “Five Days of Jazz” series, this performance finds Waldron surfing through both originals and jazz standards with an effortless cool.
Waldron cooks up these tunes with his signature angular playing style, emphasizing things like texture and the heaviness of his chunky chords to create a darker, deeper sound. His melodies are full of wandering runs and little stray asides that often make this recording sound like two different pianists performing simultaneously. This is especially true with the breezy “Petite Gémeaux.”
When you hear how easily Waldron can move from polyrhythms and abstract chord phrasings to subtle harmonic shifts that greatly accentuate the emotion of a song, you’ll be puzzled as to how he’s not as recognized as someone like Monk. If more live recordings come to light such as this one, then perhaps he’ll soon gain his rightful place in the Mount Rushmore of jazz improv greats.
In the meantime, get yourself this brand new 2-CD set from Tompkins Square Records and get lost in its handsome reverie.