Gaea Schell
For All We Know

(Roadhouse Records)
For All We Know

Review by Brad Walseth

Canadian-born pianist and singer, Gaea Schell is making a name for herself through her work the last several years in the Los Angeles area. "For All We Know" is her second release as a bandleader, following 2004's "Dream Away." Originally trained as a classical harpist, Schell switched over to jazz piano upon hearing Oscar Peterson - and you can still hear both influences in her playing to this day. This recording is a mix of Schell originals and covers of standards delivered in a subtle and charming manner.

On this recording, Schell is backed by Chris Colangelo on bass and veteran Tootie Heath on drums. Schell has played with these two often and they are extremely comfortable with each other. In fact the entire album was recorded in one 6-hour session - a testament to the comfort level these musicians have achieved. Colangelo has a traditional feel to his bass playing that supports the singer/pianist especially well in a trio setting, while Heath - who has played with people like Wes Montgomery and the Heath Brothers, adds tasteful and highly professional drumwork.

"Yes" starts things off with a gently lilting waltz - somewhat reminiscent of Bill Evans - proving Schell has considerable skill on the piano, before she delights with her deadpan vocals on a spare and haunting "My Foolish Heart." The Mercer/Van Heusen song "I Thought About You" becomes an entertaining, yet somewhat chilling meditation on obsessive love. Schell reminds me at times of Jackie Allen in her adventurousness; her voice is lighter and more limited, but she offers subtle rewards in her approach and characterizations.

"Conclusion" is another original - this time a moody ballad, while the Kern/Mercer chestnut "I'm Old Fashioned" is presented in an uptempo, swinging style. Bassist J.P. Maramba wrote the bouncy "We've Heard it All Before," which features engaging solos from Heath and Colnagelo. Throughout, Schell's piano work is clever and enjoyable. Her influences like Wynton Kelly and Oscar Peterson are heard, but she also has a feathery touch, perhaps from her background as a harpist. Although she is clearly in the mainstream tradition, her lines are fresh and appealing.

Another Schell original - "Contemplation" is an engaging waltz with some great bass work by Colangelo. Again I hear a touch of Bill Evans in Schell's limber touch. The Jobim standard, "Once I Loved" follows and the performance is satisfying - Schell's understated melodic subtleties a perfect match for Brazilian melancholy. "Ledges," meanwhile is a bit of a burner with some nice solo stretches, while the languid "Still" features classically-inspired piano over tiki-room percussion - an unusual combination that actually works!

"For All We Know" is delivered in a heartfelt manner with Schell's voice bare in its honesty, and her piano sweetly sad and tender. But not ending on that sorrowful note, Schell chooses to go out with a bang with a fiery version of Vernon Duke's "Taking a Chance on Love," leaving a good taste in the listener's ears from this pleasant and enticing encounter with Gaea Schell and her trio.

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