Thursday, April 23, 2015
Chris Biesterfeldt: Phineas - DownBeat
Pianist Phineas Newborn Jr died over 25 years ago, destitute and under-recorded at the age of 57. In his prime, he was one of the most technically gifted pianists to swing a trio. His legacy lives on in the seemingly impossible two-handed runs captured on such albums as We Three (1958) and The Newborn Touch (1964) but he has never been held in as high regard as other nimble pianists like Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson. Guitarist Chris Biesterfeldt is doing his part to keep Newborn in the conversation.
Completing the trio of challenging last names is upright bassist Matthew Rybicki and drummer Jared Schonig. The band doesn't aim to replicate or overtake the Newborn songbook, instead using his recordings as loose source material for their funky forays. Like Tatum and Peterson, Newborn was a gifted interpreter. Thus only three songs on the album are penned by him, with the bulk of the material coming from other notable jazzmen. "Cookin' At the Continental" burns with a breathless solo from Biesterfeldt that covers the full range of the instrument. A confident and straight-ahead "Juicy Lucy" features a solo from Rybicki that is patient and wonderfully disjointed. "Manteca," a tune that Newborn positively demolishes on A World Of Piano! with Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones, is taken in a different direction. Instead of the manic bombast that marks the Newborn version, Biesterfeldt goes for a swinging chicken scratch that culminates in a popping solo from Schonig over the tune's introductory riff. Throughout the recording, Biesterfeldt attacks each tune with a madman's spirit, bouncing from chords and single lines at the speed of light. This album stands on its own as an invigorating trio recording while paying homage to one of the undersung greats of jazz.
Chris Biesterfeldt @ DownBeat