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Tommy Flanagan Trio
Sea Changes,  Evidence CD ECD-22191-2, 1997

 Not just another jazz piano trio album

With a propulsive left-hand figure that becomes a catchy right hand theme, Flanagan had me hooked from the opening. Then he reeled me in with his warm tone, relaxed swing, and bright melodies.

 Sea Changes is that rare CD–the piano trio that doesn’t fade into the background. Here the ideas flow, chorus after chorus, song after song. It’s like reading a good book. Each song has its own shape and logic, its own pace of unfolding, its distinctive tone and feeling. Flanagan is the jazz musician as raconteur, a virtuoso with wit and imagination, an intellectual who likes to entertain, a historian who tells great stories. Imagine Spaulding Gray with a piano.

Flanagan has first-hand knowledge of jazz history. He played on some of the landmark recordings of the 1950’s–Sonny Rollins’  Saxophone Colossus, John Coltrane’s  Giant Steps–and played with Miles Davis, Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie and Charles Mingus, among others. For much of the ’60s, he performed with Ella Fitzgerald, which was surely a master’s class in putting over a song to an audience. In the ’80s and ’90s, he has increasingly devoted himself to leading his own sessions.

On  Sea Changes, he is joined by long-time partners Peter Washington on bass and Lewis Nash on drums. Both play marvelously, turning in beautiful solos of their own. The ensemble performances are so tight that only the music comes through.

Jazz history and Flanagan’s personal history ripple through  Sea Changes. Four Flanagan originals are reprised from his first recording as a leader, which took place in Stockholm in 1957. Those songs were inspired by the sea, so Flanagan added to this CD "How Deep Is The Ocean," "Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea," and "I Cover The Waterfront." In a sparkling rendition of "C. C. Rider," Flanagan never states the melody but always lets you hear it. Mix in Charlie Parker’s "Relaxin’ At Camarillo" and several more titles, and the result is over an hour of absolutely top-drawer jazz. If Wynton Marsalis is right that we’re living in an era of great piano jazz, then  Sea Changes could be Exhibit A.– Pete Kelly

of related interest

Tommy Flanagan

Sunset and the Mockingbird - the Birthday Concert, Blue Note CD CDP 93155 2, 1998
Here is another winner, recorded live at the Village Vanguard on Flanagan's sixty-seventh birthday. Seventy minutes of invention from a master. What a treasure Flanagan has become!

Copyright © 1999 Peppercorn Press. All rights reserved.