Leslie Pintchik’s Fun New Album


PINTCHIK: You Eat My Food, You Drink My Wine, You Steal My Girl!1 Mortal.1 Your Call Will Be Answered By Our Next Available Representative, In the Order in Which it Was Received, Please Stay on the Line, Your Call is Important to Us. Hopperesque.2 Happy Dog.2 A Simpler Time. J. DORSEY-MADEIRA: I’m Glad There is You. KERN-HARBACH: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes / Leslie Pintchik, pn; Scott Hardy, gtr/el-gtr/bs/el-bs; Satoshi Takeishi, perc; 1Ron Horton, tp/fl-hn; 1Steve Wilson, a-sax; 2Shoko Nagai, acc; Michael Sarin, dm (on all but Happy Dog) / Pintch Hard CD-004

Leslie Pintchik, a former English teaching assistant at Columbia University, moved from a Masters of Philosophy in 17th century English literature to jazz, first playing with bassist Red Mitchell at Bradley’s in New York. This disc, due out February 23 of this year, is her fourth, following her debut So Glad to Be Here (2004), Quartets (2007) and We’re Here to Listen (2010, the same year she issued a DVD entitled Leslie Pintchik Quartet Live in Concert). As one can see, two selections are chestnuts from the swing era while the remainder are originals.

Pintchik’s aesthetic seems to lean towards funk jazz of the sort that was popular in the early 1960s, updated via slick arrangements and energized by her linear playing. Her energetic rhythm section keeps the beat somewhat looser and more modern, however, and there is a virtue in her retro style in that her electric guitarist, Scott Hardy (who is also the bassist) plays much more in the Wes Montgomery style than in the hard rock-fusion style that so grates on my nerves. Indeed, one of the great virtues of this CD is that her music occupies a mellow groove that is also interesting—a rare combination in any era.

Interestingly, Pintchik favors a samba-type beat in most of her performances. This is especially welcome in the Jimmy Dorsey classic I’m Glad There is You, which focuses on the trio without any guest musicians. This is first-rate “club jazz” that does not pander to the lowest common denominator among listeners, but rather keeps a continuous flow of original ideas going. Even more ingenious is her arrangement of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, riding Jerome Kern’s classic tune over the samba beat. Pintchik clearly favors a warm, mellow approach to her pianism, seldom changing dynamics as she plays. In a certain sense, it’s almost like having a tap on your faucet between hot and cold labeled “jazz,” turning it on and allowing the notes to flow in a steady stream into your mind. She also uses a relatively tonal framework, which works hand-in-glove with her mellow style, although in Smoke there are a few chordal passages given a bit more dramatic emphasis.

Mortal is a ballad and one of the few pieces on the album not in samba time. Pintchik dovetails Ron Horton’s mellow flugelhorn and Steve Wilson’s alto sax into the texture of the opening chorus, and after she has her say the latter plays a lovely solo that closely resembles the way Bird played ballads (and with a similar tone). Horton then follows with a solo of his own, using a surprisingly large number of grace notes in the first eight bars. Hardy’s acoustic bass solo, played pizzicato, is light and delicate like fine lace.

The quirkiest tune on the album is surely the strangely-named Your Call Will Be Answered By Our Next Available Representative, In the Order in Which it Was Received, Please Stay on the Line, Your Call is Important to Us, which alternates between a peppy upbeat theme and suspended chords representing the thrill of getting your call answered by something but not quite ever getting through to an actual person. Pintchik and the trio have a ball with this one, tossing little fragments of ideas back and forth as they bravely play in a chipper style while waiting for their call to be answered by a human. (I’m not sure it ever really gets that far.) Here Hardy’s bass solo uses several little downward portamento touches to indicate the furstration of being on hold.

Hopperesque, another ballad, incorporates the accordion playing of Shoko Nagai. Here Pintchik’s solo is more minimalist than usual, using space as part of her improvisation. Nagai’s solo, conversely, is busier and more excitable. By contrast, I found Happy Dog less interesting as both a tune and a performance. To my mind, it tended to be too fragmented in construction and uninteresting as a composition, although Pintchik’s solo is very well-conceived, and there are some fascinating time shifts in the later choruses.

We end our musical journey with A Simpler Time, a relaxed excursion. Here Pintchik shows her gift for melody, creating a tune that sounds like an old classic though it is brand-new. The trio is again relaxed, nudging her through the performance which ends on a sustained, bell-like chord. A fine outing by an equally fine, traditional jazz trio.

—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley

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