Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Dave Frank: Turning It Loose

Jazzheads Records
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 6.3.09
Buy CD: Turning It Loose

There are — and have been — many virtuoso pianists, but precious few are great jazz artists. And of those few, an even more limited number can play at speeds that make an audience (and other pianists) shake their heads in disbelief.

During the very early years, Art Tatum led the way. Then Lennie Tristano appeared, and he was followed by the incomparable Oscar Peterson. All played beautiful, innovative, melodic music at every tempo; their ability to perform at mind-boggling speed was just the icing on the cake.

Dave Frank takes a back seat to none of the above artists. He was a co-founder of the New York School of Jazz, where he remained through 1986; he then became an associate professor of piano at Boston's Berklee College of Music, where he remained through '04. He then began to direct the Dave Frank School of Jazz, in midtown Manhattan.

Frank has performed world-wide and appeared at numerous jazz festivals since 1994, and is the author of two best-selling Hal Leonard music books/videos: Joy of Improv and Breakthrough to Improv.

This album, his third release on the Jazzheads label, joins two previous solo piano CDs: Power of the Piano (1997) and Ballads and Burners (2007).

Frank composed three of the dozen tracks here: “Snow Falls on 5th Avenue,” “Prayer at St. Patrick's” and “Musical Roots.” The rest are covers of standards that every jazz musician has grown up with, granting equal time to ballads and up-tempo “barn-burners.” All are exceptional.

Pay particular attention to Frank's left-hand techniques. I won't even attempt to describe it in technical terms; suffice it to say you've never heard anything like it.

This is a great album by an amazing musician.

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