Hal Galper has often worked best with small bands. He flourishes when working with a simple trio of piano, with drum and bass, especially in the last few decades. On his latest release with Origin E Pluribus Unum: Live In Seattle
he reunites with bassist Jeff Johnson from 2006's Furious Rubato and brings in drummer John Bishop for a wonderful night including several compositions by Galper and a few delightful covers.
Irving Berlin's How Deep Is The Ocean opens the album, and Galper brings a welcome theatricality to the number. His playing is jubilant, criss-crossing over various tempos and dynamics with a genuine pleasure that will bring a smile to the listener's face. The rhythm section is captured well in the live recording, with a rich, full low-end sound.
Galper's compositions like Rapunzel's Luncheonette and Wandering Spirit are more complex workouts for the band, and while they for the most part rise to the occasion they occasionally falter. Spirit is stronger than Luncheonette, whose looser, more frenetic be-bop sound sometimes becomes a bit of a muddle. Spirit elicits more lyrical playing from Galper, suiting both him and his band. Galper's flourishes around the two and a half minute mark are particularly effervescent.
The band returns to the jazz songbook with Ellington's Take the Coltrane. Galper comes down lighter on the keys here, and returns to the more playful mood of the first track. What in many artists would be showboating is an absolute pleasure from a player of the caliber and experience of Galper, and Pluribus
is at its best when he is cutting loose and having a good time.
The album closes with another cover, this time Charlie Parker's Constellation. All the different elements of the album come together perfectly for this last track. Galper jumps into a somewhat free jazz playing style, but this time the band is in lock step with him, keeping the dynamics rich and slightly strange, in keeping with the otherworldly subject matter of the composition.
An excellent recording of a fun and energetic evening, E Pluribus Unum
is, out of the many albums jazz fans desire, one well worth purchasing.