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I Hear Sparks: Bobby Avey – A New Face

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At the age of 25, Bobby Avey is a rising star in the jazz world. A pianist, composer and bandleader, Avey has impressed critics with his body of work thus far. Of special note was his turn on David Liebman’s Vienna Dialogues.

Avey’s debut is A New Face, an aptly-titled collection of original compositions. Through the pieces, the youngster demonstrates persuasive control and amazing professionalism. What really captivates me, however, is his inherent sense of rhythm.

Avey plays with bassist Thomas Kneeland and drummer Jordan Perlson. The aforementioned saxophonist, Liebman, lends his legendary hand to four pieces.

Avey graduated with a B.A. in Jazz Studies from the Purchase Conservatory of Music in 2007. While a student, he was tapped by Liebman to adapt and arrange songs from the Classical and Romantic era for improvisational purposes. This became the aforementioned Vienna Dialogues. His command and sense of rhythm was apparent early on, with his robust chording and musical sense gaining early accolades.

Avey’s rhythmic piano playing is on display immediately with “Late November,” a lovingly-assembled piece that unfolds with his intricate performance. The other players come through in chorus, but it is Avey’s involved cadence that grounds the number. There is a bending groove underneath it all, too, and that underlines the improvisation with a classical sensibility.

Through the entire recording, Avey maintains this air. Pieces like “Delusion” work through deceivingly chaotic renderings of time and space to settle on a profoundly organized path of action. And the title track uses Kneeland’s understated solo as a grounding force for Avey’s exploration of building something extravagant from simple footing.

Liebman performs beautifully on the Beethoven-tinged “In Retreat.” His gentle presence is like candlelight, blending tenderly into the warm tapestry of rhythm and tone delivered with elegance by Avey and Co.

Then there’s the constant shifting of “Insight,” a piece that gleefully refuses to settle on a particular mood. Liebman’s sax once again pulses through the number, while Kneeland and Avey provide invigorating solos.

At the age of 25, Bobby Avey is a rising star in the jazz world. With A New Face, it’s easy to hear why. His delicate command, profound power and ear for rhythm set him apart from many other young modern pianists. While so many other musicians toy with the extreme layers of their instruments, Avey’s exploration of the innermost workings of intonation and meter make for more stimulating listening.

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