Reprinted from yesterday's late edition
The solo jazz piano recital has been experiencing a renaissance in the past few years. Musicians such as Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett have demonstrated, with their records and concerts, the power and emotional expressivity of jazz in a solo context. Their engaging musical imagination, allied with an unparalleled technical virtuosity, has produced music that is personal yet universal.
Sunday night, in the second of their New Artists Concerts, Blues Alley presented Mike Nock and Marc Cohen, two pianists whose work resembles that of Corea and Jarrett in many ways. The only qualities they do not have in common are imagination and virtuosity. Like the masters, they hum along with their playing - Nock, like Jarrett, even dances while he plays - and they feature extended improvisational sections in their music.
The resemblance ends here, however.
Cohen is closer to Corea. His playing is cool, with an intellectual quality expressed by smooth phrases that are turned inward and evolve into related themes. But Cohen lacks the emotional and technical range that is required to give substance to his ideas, and his music lacks a certain tension and power.
Nock resembles Jarrett in his bluesy, gospel-oriented style. The energy that is so irresistible with Jarret is lacking with Nock because he lacks the crispness of the lower register, and, like Cohen, his tempos tend to be weak and uneven.
Both pianists would do well to concentrate on developing a more personal approach to their instruments, one more consistent with their capabilities.