Sorry Jamie Cullum, but it looks like you got schooled by a younger "twentysomething." There is a 21 year-old musician who's had four independent releases, worked in both jazz and classical fields, and played with Marian McPartland, Kevin Mahogany and Frederica von Stade. Also, he can kick some serious ass on piano. Did I mention that he's just released his major label debut?
The younger "twentysomething" in question is Taylor Eigsti. Born and raised in Northern California, Eigsti has been in the music business ever since he was in high school. His style of piano playing encompasses both mainstream jazz and classical styles thus presenting an original sound that's so complex and powerful, you'd forget that it comes from a 21 year-old.
Eigsti's first release on Concord Records, Lucky To Be Me, is an indication that the world is ready for a young man who could show a few youngsters how to throw down musically. The CD contains twelve tracks including four originals written or co-written by him, standards and even a Bjork cover. If you check out the liner notes, especially the testimonials by his fellow musicians, this Taylor (not Hicks) is the real deal.
Coltrane's "Giant Steps" charges up as the first track with Eigsti's intro in which he uses his classical piano training and changes, dramatically, to a bass sound on keys when he is joined by Christian McBride and Lewis Nash. His freestyle fingering on the keys is accompanied by Nash's frantic drumming and McBride's fast climbing bass work. But, this is Eigsti's record and on this track, he makes sure his piano does most of the talking. Cole Porter's "Love For Sale," a straight jazz classic, allows Eigsti to outshine his bandmates even when the rhythm section changes tempo. By the time you get to "Freedom Jazz Dance," Eigsti, with James Genus and Billy Kilson, is already on a roll. This fast-paced rendition also showcases Kilson's solo which matches Tony William's style of polyrhythmic propulsive drumming.
Eigsti's ability as a songwriter comes into full focus as well. "Get Your Hopes Up," which features McBride, Nash and Julian Lage on guitar, is a track suitable for anyone living in Northern California, especially on those cool breezy days. Eigsti blends smoothly a mixture of classical and progressive styles into the song. "Argument" and "True Colors" (the latter co-written with Lage) delves deep into Pat Metheny's territory as Lage plays the part of the guitar legend and Eigsti becomes Lyle Mays. Especially with "Argument," Lage's solos also give off a hint of George Benson. "Adventure One" is an atmospheric, Latin-influenced tune where Eigsti's playing is melodic and heavy on chords. McBride's bass improv solo shares the spotlight while Nash maintains the spontaneity on the cymbals.
Eigsti even has an unusual way to make jazz-funk out of unlikely bedfellows. On "I've Seen It All," a track originally recorded by Bjork, the horrn arrangements sound mournful, yet perfect and Eigsti's piano notation is flawless without sounding too flashy. "Woke Up This Morning" is given a radical makeover with a punchy horn arrangement and Eigst's bright lead. Once you hear this, you'll forget for a moment that this is the theme to "The Sopranos." Finally, the title track, a Bernstein composition, gives Eigsti all the spotlight to himself. On his own, the young pianist slows down on this ballad with somber chords and clean notation.
By lending his Grammy-winning magic, legendary producer and engineer Al Schmitt gives this CD a technically perfect recording that's blessed by strong chords, perfect notations and clean solid musicianship (Steely Dan, if you're reading this, get this kid to tour with you). Taylor, you should be so lucky. With this release, you are surrounded by all the brilliance that's around you and a talent that could put any twentysomething jazz pianist to shame.
Yes, even Jamie Cullum.