There's an exhilarating moment on pianist and composer Bill Anschell's superb new album Rumbler that is emblematic of the album's strengths, and it's right at the top of the first track. The disc kicks off with piano and saxophone outlining Thelonious Monk's iconic "Misterioso." Sure, it's a great composition, but with all the masterful versions already recorded, can there really be anything new here?
Suddenly, skepticism is knocked aside as the rest of the band kicks in with jarring, off-kilter punctuations and crunchy guitar, and from there the track wanders further afield into realms of bluesy free improvisation and multiple shades of groove, stitched together with mesmerizing band interplay and creative soloing. It's quite a ride, and that's just track one.
For a talented and restless explorer like Anschell, there's always a new path to explore, even in well-traveled territory. Having studied and performed broadly, Anschell has always been a globally aware musician of wide-ranging activities and interests, anchored by a robust jazz foundation. On Rumbler, he ranges far from the realm of standard 32-bar forms, pushing his music in new directions with odd meters, unexpected juxtapositions and textures, intricately creative arrangements and rock flavors, all without neglecting the elemental power of melody and nuance.
Rumbler features superb playing form Anschell's core trio of bassist Chris Symer and drummer Jose Martinez, supplemented by choice contributors such as saxophonist Jeff Coffin and guitarist Brian Monroney, whose textural versatility and biting solos seem to elevate any project he is a part of.
Anschell has a beautifully expressive touch on the piano, unspooling sublimely constructed solos with the skills of a player and the mind of a composer. Highly recommended.