Hal Galper's impressive discography is matched by his vast body of compositions. Over the past decade, the pianist has focused on playing rubato style, freeing the rhythm section and allowing the music to evolve in
ways that often surprise. Recently retired from teaching at Purchase Conservatory, Galper recruited some of his favorite former students - alto saxophonist Nathan Bellott, bassist Dean Torrey and drummer David
Frazier - to form the Youngbloods, passing on knowledge through the now-rare jazz apprenticeship system. Galper brought them to last year's COTA Festival to record several of his best '70s compositions, but interpreted in a new way.
The extended workout of Galper's "Speak With A Single Voice" borders on free jazz in spots with his solo and inspired fluidity of his rhythm section, Bellott's searing lead the icing on the cake. The pianist's "O's Time" is a tribute to the late Ornette Coleman, previously recorded rubato style with his trio in 2014; in this new rendition, Bellott is infused with Coleman's spirit in his adventurous, frequently dissonant solo, fueled by an irregular pulse. The standard "Goodbye", the Gordon Jenkins composition long used as Benny Goodman's sign-off theme, was in honor of Phil Woods (one of the COTA founders) and is unlike any of hundreds of interpretations previously recorded in jazz. Although it seems relatively straightforward in some ways, Bellott's lyrical playing floats over the free-spirited rhythm section, and Galper's brilliant improvisation takes this chestnut into new territory.
The set wraps with the leader's "Scufflin'", briefly hinting at bop before the rubato adventures begin as Torrey and Frazier keep the pianist on his toes with their flexible rhythm. The future of jazz is in good hands with a master like Galper providing postgraduate, on-the-job training to younger generations.