Thursday, September 2, 2010

Marian Petrescu Quartet: Thrivin'

Resonance Records
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 10.07.10
Buy CD: Thrivin'

Pianist Marian Petrescu was born in Romania, and his musical training covered both classical and jazz genres. I first heard him as the pianist on a big band tribute to Oscar Peterson, and this release features his quartet: guitarist Adreas Oberg, bassist David Finck and drummer Mark McLean.

Some pianists are graced with dexterity and speed that set them apart from all the others: Art Tatum, Lennie Tristano, Peterson and Dave Frank come to mind. Petrescu belongs in their company.

My initial reaction to this guy was similar to that of Peterson who, when he first heard Tatum, was certain that two pianists were performing together. Petrescu is, in a word, breathtaking: You'll shake your head in disbelief.

This comes with a caveat, however; Petruscu hasn't developed the fantastic jazz “feel” that Peterson had. Further, the fact that Petruscu is “fast” doesn't mean that he always swings; the pyrotechnics can detract from the listening experience.

Just as he's developing a groove, he can lose it with several choruses of “Wow, look how fast I can play!”

Fortunately, that doesn't happen often here. Two tracks are covers of compositions by Peterson — “Cakewalk” and “Blues Etude” — and these groove nicely. “Blue in Green,” by Miles Davis and Bill Evans, is done beautifully. Another highlight is the seldom-heard “On the Trail,” from Ferde Grofe's “Grand Canyon Suite.”

Two old standards — “My Romance” and “Yours Is My Heart Alone” — are impressive showpieces for the artistry of the rhythm section members.

The finale, “Indiana,” is done as a solo piano piece. It ultimately turns into an excess of explosive showtime technique: impressive, but it's not jazz.

That said, this remains a very promising group.

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