A musician you should be aware of is Bay-area pianist Debbie Poryes. We loved her 2007 CD - A Song in Jazz (see our review here) and this follow-up is even better - in part due to the lucky presence of saxophonist Bruce Williamson on some of the tracks. Williamson is a perfect fit along with bassist Bill Douglass and drummer David Rokeach. Poryes was able to recruit her friend - who was in town for another recording date - and the result is a gleaming recording that mixes buoyant ensemble playing with a setlist of standards and interesting originals. Poryes' piano technique is unique - the result of overcoming tendonitis - and highly sophisticated harmonically. Her longtime rhythm section matches her well - with Douglass seeming to hit all the right notes and Rokeach keeping the parade moving while also producing extremely melodic sounds out of his kit.
After the opening title track gets your heart racing, the band turns to the Berlin chestnut - "I've Got the Sun in the Morning" (from Annie Get Your Gun) and Poryes' love of the Great American Songbook is clearly evident in her jumpy, yet swinging trio take on this treasured show tune. The heartfelt gospel-drenched "Prayer for a Child" was written for the tragic victim of a shooting near her neighborhood - and its palpable sadness is tinged with just a glimmer of hope. "My Heart Stood Still" is reinvented with some wonderful rhythmic changes and great saxophone work, while "I Should Care" is given a distinctive Poryes piano treatment - building from a a shimmering obstinate pattern into a full-fledged trio improvisation. The lovely "Willie's Waltz" reveals great beauty in its sadness, while the quartet takes on Sonny Clark's "Melody for C" with an vibrant and rewarding performance worthy of applause. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the set is the appearance of the Beatles' "Here, There and Everywhere" - perhaps the loveliest melody in that band's canon is given a truly incandescent account by the trio. Nor does it end there - perhaps the highlight of this strong album is the finale - the lush original "Lake Dream." Starting as a free flowing duet between Poryes and Williamson (on soprano) unfurls at gloriously relaxed pace across more than eight minutes - with Douglass and Rokeach joining in about halfway through. It is such a pleasure to hear more from this talented pianist and her band again.