Recording a disc half-filled with overdone standards should require, at minimum, an attempt at dissection and redirection, investigating any harmonic and rhythmic possibilities left over after decades of use. Such is the case with the release of Catch Your Breath, from San Francisco Bay-area pianist Debbie Poryes. Poryes' approach to arranging involves sophistication with warmth and open-ended possibilities. As a result, Amercan songbook gems like "I've Got the Sun in the Morning" and "My Heart Stood Still" sound fresh and invigorating, coupled nicely alongside the pianist's original compositions.
Poryes' compositions?the title track, "Prayer for a Child," "Willie's Waltz" and "Lake Dream"?contain focused melodies and lush harmonic progressions, rife for elaborate improvised excursions. "Prayer for a Child" stands out among the intricacies of the disc's nine tracks with its gospel feel and soulful backbeat. Here, New York-based saxophonist Bruce Williamson embraces the tune's harmonic simplicity with an emotive vocal quality.
The majority of the soloing comes from Poryes and Williamson, both adaptive performers who swing their lines with confidence. Poryes' longtime collaborators, bassist Bill Douglass and drummer David Rokeach, add rhythmic intensity, exercising taste and discretion. Douglass is allowed a brief moment in the spotlight with a strong reading of the melody to The Beatles' "Here, There & Everywhere."
Catch Your Breath is as much a showcase for Poryes' composing and arranging skills as it is for her piano playing. With the right combination of sidemen, the pianist's musical vision is realized throughout this satisfying quartet release.