With 2010 sliding to a close, the time to drag out year-end lists is here. I've participated in the process before, attempting to adapt each year to changing circumstances and to account for the utter lack of finality with which I can approach my list of the "best" music or the "best" films. This year, I resolve to try something different: no lists.
I may yet crack under the pressure, but as of this moment I resolve to put forth more effort to listening rather than listing. And that's where Leslie Pintchik's We're Here to Listen inspires.
The record features the pianist and composer along with Scott Hardy (bass/acoustic guitar), Mark Dodge (drums) and Satoshi Takeishi (percussion).
The quartet has clearly taken the approach of listening to heart, examining the deep sensations of each musical moment with open ears and open minds. Without aims to compare or contrast, this album is all about exploring the contours of a musical number and about inhabiting a piece with fullness and care.
Some of the pieces are Pintchik originals. One of them is a Hardy composition.
But We're Here to Listen begins boldly and purposely with Bob Dylan. The quartet moves through "Blowin' in the Wind," building it with deliberate piano. The rendition opens with bells and a gong, calling us to contemplation before Dylan's work and creating a sense of tranquility. We, too, are here to listen.
Another cover follows as Pintchik's group flows into the delicate, heartfelt strains of "I Can't Make You Love Me." The piece adopts a prudent Afro/Peruvian gait and fills out into a spacious, wrenching samba as it builds with Pintchik's chording. Hardy accompanies on acoustic guitar.
In starting the record with these two songs, Pintchik reveals that her group is interested in moving beyond comparisons. This is an exploration of the musical process, a mining of the smaller moments of "big songs."
Whether they're weaving through the amusing Pintchik original "In the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time" or playing with the head-nodding funk groove of "For All We Know," this group is attentive and intelligent when it comes to processing the layers.
As I discovered on Pintchik's live DVD performance, the Manhattan-based pianist plays with patience and with clarity. She performs with precision, matching the compositions with subtle movements and an appreciation of musical moments - even the "imperfect" ones.
With We're Here to Listen, Leslie Pintchik rightly ducks the comparison game and engages the listener in what it really means to lend an ear.