Bill Mays, Summer Sketches (51:54) Palmetto PM-2070 2001 04 03 There's beauty in simplicity, and that's the governing logic on pianist Bill May's first Palmetto CD (his 11th as a leader). The concept - songs about summer - is simple. So's the lineup - Mays, Martin Wind on bass, Matt Wilson on drums. Summer Sketches is a soothing piano record, but don't let the placidity fool you. There's a lot of improvisational heft in this trio's ruminations. Mays delivers tightly focused bop phrasing and post-Bill Evans harmonic coloration on tunes like "Summer Night," "Indian Summer" (in a loose 5/4), and "Summer Serenade." (The chirping-cricket sound effects that begin "Summer Night" may be a little silly, but big deal - they're over in a jiffy and don't come back.) The ballads, "Estate" and "Once Upon a Summertime," are models of grace and rapport. And "The Things We Did Last Summer," a piano/bass duo with Wind bowing the melody, jumps along with an implied stride feel that breaks up the album's prevailing impressionist mood. Each trio member contributes a tune, and sure enough, it's these three tracks that contain the album's hippest moments. If the album has one flaw, it's that it doesn't include more of this kind of original music. (In this regard, the summer theme is a limitation: how many summer songs can three guys write?) Mays's "Fireflies" is brisk and playful, moving from fast swing to free in a short four minutes. Wilson's "(Gotta Go To) Summer School" is a slow minor-blues shuffle replete with the kind of quirkiness the drummer is known for. And Wind's "Early August," perhaps the album's finest specimen, is a flowing, even-eighth piece distinguished by a row of syncopated, ascending chords played in rousing unison by the full trio. It's class. ~David R. Adler
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