24 year old Montreal based pianist Bryn Roberts has accomplished a lot in a short period of time. The recipient of various scholarships, he graduated from Montreal’s McGill University in 1998. He then studied with noted pianist Fred Hersch. His own trio has toured across Canada, and in 2000 he did a US/UK tour with the Maynard Ferguson Big Band. For this, his first recording as leader, he’s assembled an international cast of talented young musicians.
Opening with Rodgers & Hart’s "Spring Is Here," the most immediate thing is how lyrical the band is. Robert’s piano shows a melodic invention similar to Bill Evans and his teacher, Fred Hersch. Vibraphonist Stefan Bauer matches Roberts for sheer lyricism. He plays with a slightly percussive edge, yet has a warmth to his sound. Seamus Blake on tenor has a slight edge to his full sound that reminds me of Patrick Clahar of Bill Bruford’s Earthworks. His playing is both muscular and light. The rhythm section of drummer Karl Jannuska and bassist Fraser Hollins is tight and assured as they make their way through the songs changes.
Vibes can often be such a dated sound, but Bauer is a delight to listen to. His opening solo on "Forty" seems to owe more to Frenchman Pierre Moerlen of Gong fame than say Gary Burton. The lovely ballad "Likewise" is a piano/vibes duo. The two mesh together, recalling Chick Corea and Gary Burton’s duo recordings.
This is a wonderful recording full of spirited music. Bryn Roberts is a talent to watch. Let’s hope he gets more exposure in the States and Europe.