One of the reasons I love small jazz piano ensembles so much is that one group can sound so different from another group, even when playing the same standards. I’m not talking about mere improvisation, either, but the way each musician approaches his art. Just before the holidays, I reviewed David Janeway’s Distant Voices, which was moody and melodic. Now I’m listening to pianist Steve Million’s What I Meant to Say, which is also moody and melodic.
And yet these two albums sound so completely different.
Much of this is due to the warm, soft sound of this recording. Not too long ago a fellow music lover and audiophile told me a certain jazz album had a McIntosh sound. I knew exactly what he meant–dark and rich in that classic amplifier sort of way. (The current McIntosh line, of course, veers from that generalization.) Steve Million‘s What I Meant to Say nails that sound, and within the first few seconds. This collection of original compositions has such a big and smooth delivery, one that draws you in closer.
Steve Million’s What I Meant to Say also carries on those efforts to keep jazz musicians playing and recording during the pandemic. Many decades ago, Million used to perform as part of a piano trio called Three Friends. Guitarist Steve Cardenas sat in on one set, and the synergy was so electric that the Four Friends ensemble was born. Million and Cardenas are both from the Midwest, as is drummer Ron Vincent, but the Kansas City/Chicago crew faded away when everyone went to New York City to play.
Joined by bassist John Sims, the Four Friends started performing again in 2019, pre-Covid. Steve Million’s What I Meant to Say is a genuine effort to keep the magic alive, and to preserve the unique and embraceable sound from these gentleman. One listen, and you’ll feel that need to perform with close friends, and to share that magical feeling with an audience. Highly recommended.
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