The Cubist movement, led by Pablo Picasso, came out of Paris in the 1910s-20s and rendered the human form as a series of jagged geometric forms. The rubato approach taken by pianist Hal Galper, who turns 80 this month, on his new album embraces similar liberties. Cubist was recorded live before a studio audience at the Gill and Tommy LiPuma Center for Creative Arts in Cleveland, Galper enlarging his usual trio palette with tenor saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi. Joining the pair are bassist Jeff Johnson and drummer John Bishop. The whole band is heard to good effect on Galper's sole composition "Scufflin'", an uptempo charger out of Blue Note's '50s heyday. Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood" opens as a ballad feature for Bergonzi, whose playing is full of vibrato and smeary asides. Galper slips in gently, playing the melody solo before Johnson steps forward. It's lovely. Four of the tunes are by Johnson. "Scene West" starts in a loping tempo, slows down and then bounces back, a sneaky little melody with lots of changes and dynamic tension. Galper is in mysterioso mode, with a somewhat jagged solo. Bergonzi starts moody, gets intense, and then stops abruptly.
On the title track and "Artists", Bergonzi's playing is markedly post-Trane experimental, the kind of music encouraged in a live setting. "Artists" is emotional and yearning - it should be heard merging from a paint-splattered boombox in a painter's studio. Rounding out the program are two tunes from the repertoire of Miles Davis—"Israel" from Birth of the Cool and "Solar" from Walkin'. They're not the strongest entries here, both taken slower than the Miles originals. But the latter has great interplay between Bergonzi and Galper at the end and the former features a strong Galper solo.