Detroit-area pianist Ellen Rowe
is in fine form on "Syvan Way"
, her new CD for Bopo records. The music selection consists of a well-balanced mixture of jazz standards and Rowe's own contemporary compositions.
Ellen Rowe currently serves as an Associate Professor of Jazz Studies at the University of Michigan. She is also a well-known composer and arranger of big band jazz, with many of her compositions aimed at student musicians. She has toured the world with accomplished jazz artists such as Kenny Wheeler, Tom Harrell, Jiggs Whigham, and John Clayton. Her regular trio, consisting of Rowe, bassist Paul Keller and drummer Pete Siers plays regularly around the Detroit area.
Fans of Diana Krall will be familiar with bassist Keller, who toured with Diana for several years during the late 1990's. Paul's playing here is superb, particularly his solo on "Our Love Is Here To Stay". Saxophonist Andrew Bishop joins Rowe's trio on four of the album's nine tunes, including Hank Mobley's under-played classic "Funk in Deep Freeze."
Two tracks feature a different trio, consisting of Rowe, Dan Kolton on bass, and Tom Brown on drums. One of this particular trio's excursions is the Van Heusen-Burke standard "It Could Happen To You", taken at a refreshingly brisk and swinging tempo instead of the ballad treatment that this wonderful tune usually receives. And Rowe is backed on one of her own compositions, the haunting "Hymn", by the great team of John Clayton on bass and Joe LaBarbera on drums. Clayton's great bow technique is evident on this tune, with his double bass sounding convincingly like a cello.
The well-conceived mixture of swinging standards and reflective originals make this a very enjoyable album of contemporary mainstream jazz. Fans of mainstream pianists such a John Hicks as well as listeners who enjoy the more subdued playing of artists like George Winston will all find something to like on this CD.