A good candidate for JT's Overdue Ovation profile, masterful 72-year-old pianist Hal Galper has been an outstanding improviser on the scene since his apprenticeship with Chet Baker during the mid-'60s. He was a member of Cannonball Adderley's last quintet from 1973 to 1975 and in 1978 led a boppish quintet featuring Mike and Randy Brecker before becoming a key member of Phil Woods' group from 1981 to 1990. Over the past decade, he has evolved to a far more liberated, if provocative, place in the musical scheme of things. For adventurous listeners, that is a very good thing.
On the outstanding and at times startling trio outing, recorded at the 2009 Earshot Jazz Festival, Galper joins bassist Jeff Johnson and drummer (and Origin founder) John Bishop for stretched-out renditions of modern jazz staples, along with a few potent originals. On the Irving Berlin standard "How Deep Is the Ocean," they barely allude to the familiar theme until the last minute of this urgent 9:50 romp. Galper tips well into McCoy Tyner territory on his energized original "Rapunzel's Luncheonette," which also features stellar solos by Johnson and Bishop. The group turns in a swinging, freewheeling extrapolation on Duke Ellington's "Take the Coltrane," which heads toward the avant-garde with Galper flaunting Cecil-esque chops along the way. And they explore Charlie Parker's "Constellation" with renegade impunity, reinventing that bop anthem through a provocative free-jazz prism. Galper contributes three strong compositions in the rhapsodic "Wandering Spirit," the glistening rubato number "Invitation to Openness" and the gorgeous, cascading ballad "Soliloquy."
A worthy follow-up to last year's daring 'Art-Work' (which featured Coltrane alumni Reggie Workman on bass and Rashied Ali on drums), 'E Pluribus Unum' is another fine example of the veteran jazz pianist at the height of his powers - and with no holds barred whatsoever.