Huffington Post reviews Aaron Diehl’s latest album

February 29, 2016

Aaron Diehl headshot

“Diehl is a player of rare fluidity and consummate clarity… This is jazz at its very best.”

The Huffington Post praised upcoming Festival performer Aaron Diehl’s latest album, “Space Time Continuum,” in a review posted Feb. 22. This comes after accolades from The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. Read the review below.

Tickets are going fast for Diehl’s upcoming jazz trio performances at Bell’s – the 6:30 PM concert is sold out, but tickets remain for the 9 PM performance.

Aaron Diehl's 'Space Time Continuum'

Aaron Diehl’s ‘Space Time Continuum’

Originally written for Huffington Post by Ralph A. Miriello

Aaron Diehl is originally from Columbus, Ohio, started playing piano when he was seven years old and has never looked back. He was named “outstanding soloist” at the Jazz at Lincoln Center’s “Essentially Ellington” competition in 2002, was picked up by Wynton Marsalis’ for his Septet for their European tour in 2003 and graduated Julliard in 2007. He has studied with master pianist Kenny Barron and has worked most notably with the fine singer Cecile McLorin Savant, Warren Wolfe, drummer Matt Wilson and vibraphonist Warren Wolf. In 2013 he was recognized by the Jazz Journalists Association with their best “Up and Coming Artist” award.

So it should be no surprise that at age thirty, Diehl is coming into his own as a composer and player. His most recent release Space and Time Continuum is a case in point. The album features eight songs, all but two of them Diehl compositions. Each a study in Diehl’s approach to be inclusive of the canon while at the same time transcending it. It is a thoroughly enjoyable album from an artist that continues to surprise.

The opening title “Uranus” is a Walter Bishop Jr. composition that is steeped in the hard bop tradition. Diehl is joined by his pliant rhythm section of David Wong on bass and Quincy Davis on drums. The opening is precise and jaunty with Davis’ drums and cymbals punctuating confidently and Wong’s solo warm and buoyant. When the group freely swings it’s a pleasure to behold. Diehl is a player of rare fluidity and consummate clarity. His notes are fleet, but not rushed and his ideas are thoughtful and original.

On the marvelously evocative “The Steadfast Titan” the film noir mood is set with a quivering bowed bass and piano introduction that sets the stage perfectly for the bellowing baritone of Joe Temperley. The eighty five year old Temperley replaced Harry Carney in the baritone seat in Duke Ellington’s Orchestra and now resides in the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. The moody tone of his horn in combination with the deft writing of Diehl is just pure magic. This is jazz at its very best. The song could easily be confused with a Mancini score for a detective movie.
Diehl’s compositional acumen is on display with his homage to the Back to the Future trilogy “Flux Capacitor.” This thoroughly modern tune is juxtaposed nicely with the uncannily inspired breathy saxophone sound of guest soloist Stephen Riley on tenor. Riley’s beautifully warm and reedy tone is reminiscent of Getz or Webster.

“Organic Consequence” was written with guest saxophonist Benny Golson in mind. The eighty-seven year old Golson is an institution onto himself and Diehl’s composition features him and trumpeter Bruce Harris in a sweet tandem stroll at the opening. Diehl’s first solo is an oblique affair with Monkish elements. Golson’s solo is unmistakable in its warmth and elegance-not probing so much as confidently leading the way. The entire ensemble is in its element on this extended suite, Wong’s bass and Davis’ drums prominently managing the pulse throughout.

Diehl takes the listener on a luscious, semi-classical ride with “Kat’s Dance” composed by Adam Birnbaum. Ethan Iverson’s liner notes described Diehl’s arrangement of the composition as a 6/4 Bolero. Diehl’s piano is the perfect counterpoint to the hushed, whispered tone of Stephen Riley’s saxophone. The two dance through the piece with an understated elegance that mesmerizes. Iverson suggests it’s the perfect “music to have a martini to.” I totally agree.

“Santa Maria” open the with a mournful bowed bass solo over which Davis tastefully layers accents of shimmering cymbals and muffled toms. The song morphs into a more traditional walking bass line driven, Spanish influenced vamp where Diehl shows his ability to change the tone of his piano voicings to adapt to the changing feeling of his arrangement-a superb demonstration of a polished, in sync trio.

Diehl’s facility on the keyboard is on full display on the romping, Tatumesque “Broadway Boogie Woogie,” a two minute testament to unrestrained burning. The trio executes with equal aplomb making it look all too easy.

The closing song is the album’s title “Space and Time Continuum” with vocals by Charnee Wade and lyrics by Diehl’s friend Cecile McLorin Savant. Diehl’s lone somber piano chords lead to Wade’s melancholic c voice which has a resonant timbre that she delivers in a languishing cry that drips with emotion. After the mournful dirge has run its course, Diehl ups the tempo in a spirited four/ four vamp that introduces alternating solos by Harris’ on muted trumpet and a restrained Golson on tenor. Wade introduces some scat that interweaves with the two horns to the coda in a free swinging finale.

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