Jazz has always been rife with rumors about great players hidden in backwater towns. Seattle, Wash., is no vantage point of New York City, where jazz reputations are made and lost. From New York, Seattle is somewhere on the left edge of the Earth―perhaps near Siberia.
Bill Anschell would be a badass wherever he lived, even Greenwich Village. He is an impeccable, distinctive pianist with a valuable body of work on Seattle's Origin label, mostly in solo, duo and trio formats. Rumbler
contains new compositions for full ensembles. Anschell's tight working trio with bassist Chris Symer and drummer Jose Martinez is the foundation. Five formidable guests shuttle in and out: Jeff Coffin, Richard Cole and Hans Teuber on various reeds, Brian Monroney on guitar and Jeff Busch on percussion. All but Coffin are from Seattle.
Anschell loves odd meters. "Captive Light" has a typical 5/4 pattern in the A section (1-2-3/1-2), but it's reversed in the bridge (1-2/1-2-3). "The Dreaded 'E' Word" and "No You Go" are in 7. He also recomposes standards. For Monk's "Misterioso," he inserts a new countermelody into the second chorus of the careening head. The players make all these challenging forms flow. In an album not about solos, there are many vivid individual moments, like Teuber's softly soaring departure from "Captive Light."
And in an album about his own writing Anschell shares time with other composers. Besides "Misterioso," there is a buoyant trio celebration of Paul McCartney's "For No One." "Reflections in D," one of Duke Ellington's most hauntingly beautiful songs, has been strangely overlooked. There have been three enduring piano interpretations, by Ellington, Roland Hanna and Bill Evans. Now there are four. Anschell's lush, rapt solo rendering is a halting personal search through darkness and light, often pausing to gather itself before releasing the next wave of emotion.