Monday, March 1, 2010

Pianist Adam Birnbaum: Substance and Swing

Originally posted on October 28, 2008

The mainstream represents a good portion of all jazz recordings released over the world in any given year. Of course not all of them are worthy of one’s attention. Some are watered down into a “smooth jazz” blend, some just do not represent talent worthy of notice.

Pianist Adam Birnbaum’s Travels (Smalls) has neither fault. It’s a trio date augmented on some cuts by alto-soprano sax newcomer Sharel Cassity. The disk has plenty of bite to back up the growl. Birnbaum can be energetic or gentle, and plays with a driving panache that his group reinforces. There’s a good program of originals and some unexpected twists, like an adaptation of a Robert Schumann song. The pleasurable listening quality of the set is not made possible by a loss of integrity. This is jazz with honesty and a dedication to substance and swing.

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