Misha Piatigorsky
"Uncommon Circumstance"

Misha Piatigorsky

Review by Brad Walseth

Straddling the line between Modest Mussorgsky and Vince Guaraldi, Russian-born, NYC-based pianist Misha Piatigorsky separates himself from the slew of jazz pianists through his ability to produce strong and compelling melodic themes. This can be heard immediately on the opener - "Where's The Sun" - with its mysterious and romantic feel. Switching to Rhodes for "Montevideo" - he reminds one of a young Bob James with the light-hearted melodic bounce. Meanwhile, "Land of Confusion" is a catchy delight with its most rewarding hook a tough chord refrain.

Working within a trio setting, with acoustic bassist Hans Glawischnig and drummer and drummer Ari Hoenig, Piatigorsky seems intent on merging pop, jazz and classical elements into something new and fresh. A good example of how successful his attempt is can be heard on his title track, the lovely "Uncommon Circumstance" which looks as much to the Old World as to the West Coast. A beautiful - almost classical rendition of the Sammy Chan/Jule Styne "I Fall in Love Too Easily" is a highlight - as the well-worn standard is unexpectedly mutated into a Russian funeral march. Throughout, the pianists playing moves from airy to Rachmaninoff-ish heft, while his bandmates provide a tasteful backdrop.

"SoHa" changes gears into an electric piano soul strut - again recalling the CTI jazz/rock that flourished during the 70's. "Nachlaot" opens quietly over tom-toms - with Glawischnig taking a nice solo turn before it slides in and out of some interesting jazz uptempo directions. A tender presentation of his father Gregory's composition - "Fishing Boats" follows and is a wonderful display of the pianists straight-ahead jazz chops on this lovely ballad. Meanwhile "Spanky's Dilemma" gets back to a more soulful groove.

"Superhero" is a warped Spanish/Latin-influenced piece that takes off on some surprising tangents; while the album closes with the pensive "Lonely Butterfly." Moscow-born Piatigorsky immigrated to the US in 1981 and studied under Kenny Barron before earning his Masters Degree at the Manhattan School of Music. He is the pianist and musical director for singer Mark Murphy, and plays in several of the top jazz clubs around NYC. "Uncommon Circumstance" is his first release, and it shows an admirable command of a wide range of pianoistic styles, while his strong songwriting demonstrates clearly why he was awarded the 2004 BMI Thelonious Monk Composers Competition.

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