Jovial and eloquently phrased, pianist Laura Dubin does the rarely exercised and likely taboo on her new two-disc release, Live at the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival. Accompanied by her trio, Antonio H. Guerrero on drums and Kieran Hanton on bass, Dubin crosses over genres and weaves them together, making for innovative creations with a charm and savvy that delights audiences worldwide.
Taking phrases from swing, bop, blues, stride, cabaret, boogie-woogie, ragtime, Flamenco, and classical compositions, Dubin shows her astuteness as a multi-diversified musician with the aptitude to create something greater out of bits and pieces of material extracted from the archives of history. Transcending generations of music, Dubin’s craftsmanship of adding onto original models is the work of brilliance in motion.
Starting off with Steve Allen’s swing-shaded “This Could Be the Start of Something,” Dubin interpolates improvised musings on the piano into the melody, producing a bubbly mood with traits of bop and classical trimmings rolled up into one, swaddled in American swing. “Thunderstorm,” an original piece by Dubin, is strewn with intense punctuations and caressing reflections displayed on the keys, while her tune “Ode to O.P.,” the abbreviation for stride pianist Oscar Peterson, has a nostalgic swing tilt, recalling of the chorus-line kick rhythms of Johnny Mercer and Jerome Kern.
Ravel’s “Prelude from Le Trombeau de Couperin” is re-imagined in heated tribal beats and thrusts with a Latin accent, integrated with the classical swirls of “My Favorite Things,” penned by Rodgers and Hammerstein. The combination makes for a complementing union of jazz and classical patinas.
Once again, Dubin merges classical motifs with jazz-hued tresses in her remodeling of Duke Ellington’s elegantly swagged “Prelude to a Kiss” which flows into the lively whirls of Chopin’s “Waltz Op 64 No. 1,” appearing as if the latter was meant to be married to the former. Perhaps Dubin guessed that after the kiss, what transpires is expressed in Chopin’s piece. Evolving from two separate generations, Chopin of the Victorian Era and Ellington from the Jazz Age period, the weaving of the two generations is a natural extension, transitioned seamlessly.
Dubin’s treatment of Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm” is tweaked by her nimbly executed, jive-inspired vamps that dress up the number in frilly decor and sparkling fringes. The ragtime-tinged swells of “Handful of Keys” by Fats Waller have a vintage vaudeville vibe mixed with the smooth penmanship of Dubin’s enchanting improvisations and off-the-cuff meanderings.
She applies the same technique to Beethoven’s passionate declaration, “Sonata No. 8: Pathetique,” riffing off from the signature motifs and adding to the masterly crafted quilt with her own patchwork. Her original piece, “Green Arrow,” is a hyper-charged, swing-laden romp adorned in shimmering drumbeats and jumping keys. Conversely, her number “Doc Z” is underscored by a slow, sensuous swagger that will remind listeners of melodies designed for upscale cabarets.
The recording proceeds with the swing propulsion of Dubin’s original track, “Something Cookin’,” which is clamped in bopping bass pulls and jaunty keys. Flickers of Chattanooga Choo Choo-like boogie woogie is woven into the tapestry. Her own composition, “Waltz for Bill,” an homage to Bill Evans, is sewn into Cole Porter’s mesmerizing trademark “De-Lovely,” integrating the latter with impromptu excursions of her own making and facilitating a comfy buoyancy on the original.
In the spirit of Bach, Dubin spins angelically textured phrasing and gentle curves along “Invention for Nina,” a tribute to Nina Simone. She then veers into jumping blues waters along Donald Brown’s “New York,” dabbling in free-style riffing that produces a mishmash of voices layered on top of one another. “Kelly Green” is Dubin’s sojourn into burlesque style blues, and “On Eire” takes her to the depths of Latin swing à la Michel Camillo. Her keys glitter and pop with an infectious agility; then she steps aside to let Guerrero perform a pulsating solo on the drums that enhances the Latin-imbued atmosphere.
Blending the glistening phrases of Debussy’s “Reflects dans L’eau” into Gershwin’s “Our Love Is Here to Stay,” Dubin treats the latter as though it is a descendant of the former. She portrays Mozart’s “Sonata No 11: Rondo alla Turca” with a youthful, ragtime-infused rhythm. The jazz palette fused with the classical themes make for a lively brew that permeates familiar territory, and yet, exudes a refreshing glow. Original number “Barcelona” sees her indulging in Flamenco-encrusted inflections, alternating with McCoy Tyner-esque flourishes.
Dubin’s live performance with her trio has multiple facets, coursing through a swathe of material that contains variables of jazz, blues, and orchestral spoors. The trio’s discourse maintains a jovial consistency filled with elegant phrasing and improvisations. She shows that creating can be about playing off the masters, making their works greater. Bridging generations of music together can be fulfilling and is certainly Laura Dubin’s method to her one-of-a-kind craftsmanship.
Laura Dubin – piano, Antonio H. Guerrero – drums, Kieran Hanton – bass