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No One by Dan Cray

Dan Cray, an Evanston Illinois based, Bill Evans inspired pianist and his trio take a romp through eight standards and three original compositions on the CD No One. But what a romp! This listener has concluded that Dan Cray is somewhat of an impressionist. Like the turn of the 20th century Parisian painters and composers whose work led to merely "suggest" a particular scene or sound, so to does much of Dan Cray’s work on No One. On some standard tunes Cray completely omits the melody playing only the changes as though to suggest the listener already knows the tune and should be creative on their own in what might be heard to his accompaniment. There are times when Cray slightly modifies a well-known melody just enough to draw in the listener who recognizes the difference. It is sort of like telling an "inside" joke that only the "informed" would fully understand. More than once Cray also will approach a tune by avoiding playing the head until well into an introduction that basically deconstructs and expands the tune before we hear it. Such is the case on the trio’s performance of the standard "Avalon." The trio plays an extended introduction before the group melds into a smooth and swinging up-tempo delivery of the head. The recognizable melody comes across as serving more as an aural sorbet to the group’s previous improvisations and a respite before the trio again trails off into a new groove and approach that is thinly connected, but in its evolution, also continually removes itself from the original tune.

Bass player Clark Sommers contributes two original compositions for the recording. "Time Window," is a sensitive and pensive sounding ballad evoking thoughts of loss and melancholy, that includes some interesting percussion effects by drummer Greg Wyser-Pratte using what sounds like mallets on his drums along with shimmering cymbal sounds behind the melody of Cray’s piano. In contrast, Sommers’ other original "The Simpleton" is much more of a piece emoting sentimentality and remembrance again enhanced by the tasteful drumming of Wyser-Pratte. The original penned by leader Cray, the title track "No One," is an easy swinging medium tempo piece. Cray’s composition is full of echoes of the music of Thelonious Monk, however Cray’s approach to the piano is still more closely akin to the delicate touch of Bill Evans rather than the heavier splayed finger accents of Monk.

Other tunes on the CD include two of Monk’s compositions, a machine-like driving "Epistrophy" and a somewhat less definitely rhythmically centered "In Walked Bud." In both cases Cray and his band mates provide a fresh reading and a new spin on these jazz classics. Also, the trio’s rendition of Dizzy Gillespie’s "Woody N’ You" holds firmly to the tradition of bebop at first, then during improvisation shows us whole another way to go. "For All We Know" provides another very pretty tune and Horace Parlan’s "Wadin" gives the CD a little soul. No One by Dan Cray is a recording full of interesting twists that delight the listener, and also some very high level musicianship and artistry. It is a recording that would be a delight to most any listener and certainly a welcome addition to any jazz aficionado’s collection.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Dan Cray
  • CD Title: No One
  • Genre: BeBop / Hard Bop
  • Year Released: 2003
  • Record Label: Blujazz
  • Rating: Four Stars
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