I’ll admit that some off my holiday reviews of music for non-holiday people have gotten strange–trust me, I wisely passed on some of the more adventurous music in the review pile because I didn’t want to push y’all too far away. So here’s something more in the spirit of the season, which right now is plunk down in the middle of that limbo between Christmas and New Year’s. This year, it’s snowy and cold in Portland, so I give you David Janeway and his latest piano trio recording, Distant Voices.
David Janeway is one of those jazz pianists who’s been around forever (he started his NYC jazz studies back in the ’70s) and he’s played with everyone. He even played Madison Square Garden, way back in 1980. For Distant Voices he’s enlisted two fellow veterans, bassist Cameron Brown and drummer Billy Hart, to play a familiar mix of original compositions and well-known standards. This sounds like the recipe for many a contemporary jazz album, a seasoned trio still at the top of their game willing to show everyone how it’s done.
There’s a little more to Distant Voices than that. David Janeway, for example, is endlessly varied in his approach to each of these songs. These are fingers that have spent a lifetime on the keys, discovering new ways to say things while echoing the greats. That’s the theme behind this album, of course, and it’s paying homage to the greats in the context of the pandemic. That’s a rather broad idea, but you can almost hear Janeway think about Ellington as he plays Ellington, or Freddie Hubbard, or Wayne Shorter.
As for Brown and Hart, it’s clear they know David Janeway and have a symbiotic relationship with him. It’s fascinating to watch these three feed off each other and affect each other’s moods. They move together as the music ebbs and flows, and this is why this type of jazz album is ultimately so special. It’s about time, and learning, and a passion for music that never wanes, no matter what’s happening in the outside world.