Unhesitatingly, Kenny Werner is a pianist’s pianist. He casts a giant shadow, and on The Space that grows because Werner bares his soul over and over again.
Never type cast his remit hovers unrelentingly within the broad yet invisible limits set by the modern mainstream tradition loosely defined and certainly exemplified by Bill Evans. Werner’s records are fluid, usually highly layered or jaggedly swinging yet however begrudgingly romantic affairs that make you think without use of grandstanding eccentricity, the short cut of gracenote flourish or quirk of idiom. I turn most of all to a 1990s trio album with Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette of his called A Delicate Balance to hear him at his peak or with trumpeter Tom Harrell on Sail Away. Now this noble addition to a lifetime’s work reignites a belief in what he is capable of.
The Space is a beautiful solo piano world of interiors that further deepens his relationship with Pirouet Records after earlier trio and duo projects. Faced with the expanses of the Great American Songbook spread in front of him when he needs them nestled among originals at his disposal he again demonstrates above all the humane sweep of his approach.
Werner navigates the aching delays of a note and the deafening silences without the need of any compass and among the most exquisite cushioning of chordal expression he achieves is here in a deft treatment of ‘You Must Believe In Spring,’ and above all the moving Ralph Rainger tearjerker ‘If I Should Lose You’. ‘Fall From Grace’ at the end will take your breath away.
There are few pianists of Werner’s stature left with us who can pull and tug on the emotions quite like Werner yet who manages to keep sentimentality at arm’s length. Maybe only Fred Hersch, Kenny Barron, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett can do what Werner does. Say it louder that Werner proves not for the first time that he is in their league. A sense of wonder is an inescapable take-away emerging from a sequestering in The Space that somehow has become a sanctuary where free expression and an unfettered imagination are all. SG