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Radioville: Kenny Werner, “Me, Myself & I” (Justin Time)

April 12, 2012

To hear my WDCB review of the new solo piano album by Kenny Werner, go here.

For those who don’t share an intimate listener-speaker relationship with me, here’s the text of the review:

Hi I’m Lloyd Sachs with a two-minute album review. With the release of Kenny Werner’s Me Myself & I, jazz’s hitting streak of great solo piano albums continues. I’m not sure why there have been so many of them, by artists who frequently embrace the format, like Brad Mehldau and Swiss great Irene Schweizer, as well as those who are new to it, like Craig Taborn and Kris Davis. But ours is not to wonder why, it’s to bask in this trend while we can.

Me Myself & I is especially striking, following Werner’s memorable collaboration with the Brussels Jazz Orchestra, Institute of Higher Learning. That album featured mostly original pieces ranging from a tribute to the late Bob Brookmeyer to a three-part suite topped off by some searing electric guitar. The new album, recorded last year at the Montreal Jazz Festival, largely consists of brilliantly reworked standards, including classics by Miles and Trane and Monk.

The two albums aren’t as different as you might think. As a solo pianist, Werner thinks big: His arrangements are wide-bodied and sometimes hard-hitting. He paints “All the Things You Are” with broad strokes and glancing blows, building intensity and then… suddenly… stopping, which appears to be why the title of the song is given as “All the Things,” lacking the final words. Werner also airs out the expansive title track from another 2011 album, Balloons; takes Joni Mitchell’s “I Had a King” back to its Celtic roots, and renders a lovely reading of “A Child is Born.”

Werner isn’t as well known as he should be, largely because he’s done some of his best work accompanying singers, and backing star players like Dave Douglas. Appearing with Douglas’ quintet at the Green Mill recently, Werner stole the show with a remarkable solo that bridged ragtime, gospel and modernism in the blink of an eye. You can find more of the same on Me Myself & I. With a review of the new Kenny Werner album, I’m Lloyd Sachs. Follow me on twitter @sachsville and subscribe to my blog, jazzespress.

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