Danny Fox Trio

Wide Eyed
Hot Cup Records 133

By Ken Waxman

Milestone in a maturing career, Wide Eyed, the second CD by NYC-based pianist Danny Fox and his trio heightens appreciation for his composing and playing abilities. It’s possibly the most audacious indication of major league status for a pianist since Myra Melford’s Alive in the House of Saints on hatArt in 1993. Like Melford, Fox is a versatile, disciplined player, concocting taunt rhythmic kinetics and cerebral keyboard dreams with the equal facility. Like her trio, which was filled out by Lindsey Horner and Reggie Nicholson, Fox’s friends are bassist Chris van Voorst van Beest and drummer Max Goldman

With arrangements worked out by all trio members, the tracks depend as much on the mercurial pacing of van Voorst van Beest, and Goldman’s sympathetic pulsations as the compositions themselves. That said, Fox’s professional immersion in everything from chamber groups to classic jazz repertory, gives his lines their unique appeal.

Brisk, with a recurring pseudo-circus melody oozing through the track for example, “Bonkers” lives up to its name, until arpeggiated bass work introduces an intense piano interlude. Following an introductory Second Line backbeat from Goldman, “Funhouse Memory” quickly changes shape to allow bluesy tone emphasis from Fox before once again becoming a foot-tapping happy blues. And with kinetic near boogie-woogie styling “All Tolled” is pure swing, but it stays contemporary by allowing enough space for Fox’s meticulous key clipping and chiming. Meanwhile the sound of “Drone” is as self-evident as its title.

Despite his obvious skills in this direction not all Fox’s tunes are theatrical swingers; although all are consistently and properly balanced. The methodical “Punches” for instance is awash with chamber-music-like voicing, with Goldman’s rhythm source sounding like a kettle drum and the bassist’s pervasive response slapped. As well, “Confederates”, which starts off as low-key and minimalist with each player expressing singular tones, mutates into a boppy romp that allows the pianist to dig into the lower reaches of the soundboard with all his technique on show.

All in all the CD’s title is probably a misnomer. Unlike the common meaning, if any player on the disc is wide-eyed it’s with excitement not immaturity. On the evidence here, the trio appears destined for jazz’s front ranks.

Tracks: Sterling; Bonkers; All Tolled; Drone; Wide Eyed; Confederates; Short Al in Brooklyn; Patriot Daze; Punches; Funhouse Memory; Tumble Quiet

Personnel: Danny Fox: piano; Chris Van Voorst Van Beest: bass; Max Goldman: drums

—For The New York City Jazz Record September 2014