By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Trip the Light Fantastic
If you aren’t familiar with pianist Hal Galper, you haven’t been paying attention. He was a scholarship student at Boston’s School of Music, just a few years after it came into existence in the 1950s; he has more than 80 recordings to his credit — 20 as a leader — and, in addition to his skill as a pianist, is a composer, arranger, publisher, teacher and author.
Galper always has been ahead of his time. In a biographical note, he recalls that, “For a time I was a free player. It became obvious that this wasn’t in vogue in Boston, when my fellow musicians ran off the bandstand holding their ears.” Those “fellow musicians” were turning the jazz world upside-down at the time, playing a style identified as bebop ... which indicates just how advanced Galper was. Well, he’s still that kind of musician.
That said, his list of artistic colleagues proves that he was capable of throttling back to achieve compatibility with his peers. He was on the road with Chet Baker for three years, then spent an equal period with Cannonball Adderley, followed by 10 years with Phil Woods.
At that point, the urge to stretch out took hold, and Galper formed a piano/bass/drum trio and went back on the road. Jeff Johnson has been his bassist for more than seven years; he recommended John Bishop, who now is Galper’s drummer.
Jazz usually is played at a steady beat, whether 4/4, 2/4, 3/4 or other more exotic tempos. But a significant element of Galper’s style involves rubato: rhythmic flexibility within a phrase, often against a steady rhythmic accompaniment. This technique is used more in classical genres, but has become common in jazz as time has passed.
Three of the tunes here are old standards (“Alice in Wonderland,” “Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry” and “Be My Love”); three are Galper originals, and one is by Ron Miller. You’ll first notice is that Galper is a “busy” pianist; less is not more with him. That said, his melodic lines certainly aren’t cluttered. Second, his style is demanding for the bassist and drummer, and these two artists provide excellent backing.
If you’re seeking something a bit different — which nonetheless swings — these guys should do it for you.