A Little Night Waltz is a confidently sculpted piece of music. Pianist G.F. Mlely plays in a style that is reminiscent of Lennie Tristano, bold and slightly off-kilter. His match is his partner, Bill Markus, on doublebass. Their dialogue is intriguing: sometimes they are in agreement, sometimes debating. The general theatricality of the music is consistently stunning. Mlely states that many of the titles are part of an unstaged jazz theater piece. Taken as such, the pieces are tales of haunted journeys filled with whimsical characters and odd places.
While Mlely shows his virtuosity in the bright but manic ‘A Little Night Waltz,’ Markus reacts by playing a slow mantra that is dark and ominous. Whenever Mlely tries to persuade you with do something, Markus is there warning you not to go. Don’t venture down that twisted road that Mlely is offering. It’s may be stranger than you imagine. It is nonetheless a brilliant way to start an adventure.
Mlely writes that ‘Words We Say’ is about homelessness. It is a slower, more graceful piece than ‘Night Waltz.’ Mania is replaced by respect and ultimately sorrow. This time Markus plays along as if nodding in solemn, eerie agreement.
‘It’s Not the End’ is a sprightly affair in which the narrator Mlely seemingly spins a yarn. At different junctures, Mlely is racing to tell the story that is either passionately enhanced or strongly contradicted by Markus and percussionist Gene Stone. No one tells the story quite right. That’s why there are slight interruptions and emphatic points of contention.
"A Little Night Waltz" is a fascinating work that bears repeated listening. It is challenging, but there are elements of beauty and allure. Mlely gives one a glimpse of a strange, magical world. The music feels like the elusive memory of an old and marvelous carnival show that slowly fades into a dense fog.