The Bespoke Man’s Narrative
Mack Avenue ****
It’s uncanny, a prologue that summons the mood music of Ahmad Jamal to this feast of a piano album, and then ushers in a new pianist so assured you might think it’s a cruel illusion. In solo (briefly), trio and quartet formations Diehl, only just out of his mid-twenties, has a suave sense of sophistication which the “bespoke” conceit in the title emphasises. He’s clearly saying “I’m a man of taste”, yet instead of sitting around in a gentleman’s club wearing a deerstalker and tweeds he’s happy in a modern armchair Philippe Starck might have designed, with fashionable book shelves lolling (if shelves could so idle) behind him. It’s a slightly contradictory message, but Diehl is more modern than stuck in the past, even if arch Wyntonite Stanley Crouch crops up in the notes shooting from the hip as ever and stating the case strongly for Diehl who he knew at Julliard. Typo of the year so far must be the bit about one “Charge Mingus” in an apt phrase comparing the piano to “tuned bongos”. I’m not sure how “bespoke” the band is, although it does sound very slick befitting of one put together by a Cole Porter fellow in jazz composition, an award bestowed on Diehl by the American Pianists Association. Vibist Warren Wolf is as dependable as ever as is drummer Rodney Green with the up-and-coming David Wong nimble on bass. The trio tracks are good hearty fare but it’s slightly paradoxical that the main album highlight is very possibly the convincing solo version of Ellington’s ‘Single Petal of a Rose’ (also covered recently by the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra). ‘Bess You Is My Woman Now’ is cleverly approached and very expressive, and the treatment of Ravel’s ‘Le Tombeau de Couperin [III. Forlane]’ weighted very thoughtfully and sequenced well. Diehl has made a statement here that’s much more than a sartorial one, although he might have to keep on changing his musical clothes for a while yet to get really comfortable.
Released on 18 March. Aaron Diehl, above