LIVE REVIEW - THE NEW SCHOOL, NYC, 3/6/2012
?Here?s how it?s gonna work,? said pianist Hal Galper. Appearing with bassist Jeff Johnson and drummer John Bishop last month, Galper jumpstarted the New School release concert for Trip The Light Fantastic with a frank rundown of the evening to come. And once the group delved into ?Alice in Wonderland?, it became clear just how the evening would work: as an eclectic stretch of harmonic and melodic boundaries, propelled by the force of Forward Motion (Galper?s improvisational jazz guide published in 2005).
As Johnson noted in the post-concert discussion, no two song renditions are ever the same in the trio?s inventive hands. So it comes as no surprise that the album?s ?Alice in Wonderland? took on an edge-ofyour-seat spontaneity in concert, echoing the album?s instantaneous vivacity with a live dose of crackling energy. The fairytale-named tune rushed forward with pristine power, exuding a tenacious bass bounce and classic-tinged percussive flourish all at once.
The band?s exquisite balance took a ferocious turn in ?Get Up and Go?. As Bishop knocked his cymbals and drums to thunderbolt heights, Galper?s piano erupted fierce aural lava at hypnotic velocity. The dust settled abruptly after the peak, as the trio broke into a sparse, experimental swing melody - only to return to fiery homeostasis a few minutes later. On CD, ?Get Up and Go? assumes a different air: the piece whittles from thunderstorm to cloudy drizzle, still getting up and going, though at a more reflective speed.
A single listen to Trip The Light Fantastic is enough to grip, challenge and inspire the ears simultaneously. But the trio?s expertise shines most in the curious divide between recording and live performance. One album and concert at a time, Galper, Johnson and Bishop unravel the layers beneath each piece, exploring both tried-and-true standards and their original compositions under vastly different lenses.