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Album Review

Pianist Aaron Choulai certainly reflects peers and influences within a classical and European jazz context, but adds a bit of American pop and rock influence into his music. If music of the Bad Plus, Brad Mehldau, or Esbjörn Svensson interests you, Ranu will likely hold the same appeal. Choulai's original trio music parallels several ECM-type artists in its introspection, and occasionally you hear phrases that make you blink and think Keith Jarrett. Then again, this is a developing artist whose voice is not yet fully formed, but chooses to work on the softer side — you won't mistake him for 180-degree pyrotechnicians like Eldar Djangirov, Taylor Eigsti, or Ethan Iverson. Bassist Sam Anning plays on all tracks, with two different drummers on alternating cuts. The CD is bookended by standards "You Go to My Head" and "I'll Be Seeing You," in languorous, wintry, wistful refrains, or a blues shuffle respectively, as Choulai chooses certain select notes carefully on both pieces. The originals by the leader range from the spirit song, light funk, non-overt stylings of "Deep Mountain Gone," the diffuse, hard-to-grasp visage of "White Scarf," and the pretty, evocative "Dreams of Paper Roses" with echoes of "Cry Me a River." By contrast, the perky, jaunting title track, or "Bedira," in a slowed modal waltz with rumbling drumming from Ben Vanderwal, has Choulai reflecting the Euro-American trappings of Jarrett. "Yotsuya" is poppish and meandering à la the Beatles, Thom Yorke's "The Tourist" is in a thinner, carriage stroll pacing, and Neil Young's "Tell Me Why" has Anning leading the melody line in another see-through-veil approach navigated rhythmically by other drummer Rory McDugall. There's plenty of sublime intrigue to hold one's interest far removed from any slam-bang intensity required in players who are more interested in high-drama theatrics. Choulai's approach holds promise — he could protoform into an artist who might proudly sit beside contemporary icons like Fred Hersch, Jon Mayer, or Robert Glasper. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

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Ranu, Aaron Choulai
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  • 8,99 €
  • Genres: Jazz, Music
  • Released: 18 August 2009

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