File Under Best of 2013
I first heard pianist Bryn Roberts this year, supporting Dar Williams in a gig at Symphony Space. I was struck by the many ways that he expanded on Williams’s deliberately unfussy harmonic language with coloristic voicings and embellishments that still allowed the music to remain uncluttered but greatly enhanced the quality of the overall texture in an intimate duo setting. From the stage, Williams announced Roberts’s latest recording, Fables. I sought it out directly afterward and am very glad I did so.
Roberts as jazz pianist has some things in common with Roberts as pop pianist. He adds sumptuous voicings and runs to the harmonic progressions of the set of (mostly) originals found on Fables, but never in an obtrusive or self consciously virtuosic way. Instead, whether he is soloing or comping, Roberts displays consummate musicality. One can say the same for his supporting artists, saxophonist Seamus Blake, bassist Orlando LeFleming, and drummer Jonathan Blake. They even manage to make the venerable standard “In the Still of the Night” lively again, the quartet simmering in an uptempo rendition of the Porter tune.
In the pocket of mainstream jazz with an adventurous outlook, Roberts’s Fables is one of my favorite releases of 2013: recommended.