Jazz pianist Eric Byrd is still striving to develop his own voice as an artist, but it's not the sort of keyboard quest that's hard on the ears. Far from it. With an obvious flair for melodic embellishment, Byrd infuses these mostly familiar pop and jazz tunes with an appealing romanticism that helps compensate for the absence of compelling improvisations.
Working in a trio setting for the most part, Byrd opens with the title performance, the first of three original compositions. By turns percussive and lyrical, these pieces occasionally suggest the influence of several veteran jazz pianists who prefer to work in intimate settings, including Ahmad Jamal and Ramsey Lewis. Similar parallels are also evident in the close-knit interpretations Byrd and his triomates -- bassist Bhagwan Khalsa and drummer Mike Smith -- fashion for "My Funny Valentine" and "Love for Sale."
Elsewhere, the arrangements find Byrd going it alone, unfurling a rhapsodic treatment of "Sophisticated Lady" or augmenting the trio sound with one of the three guest musicians who appear on the album: vocalist Reggie Upshaw, saxophonist Ron Kearns and guitarist Tim Jenkins. Easily the most entertaining cameo player is Jenkins, who soulfully embroiders "Shiny Stockings," the Frank Foster tune and Count Basie band staple.
Appearing Monday at Blues Alley. To hear a free Sound Bite from Eric Byrd, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8102. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)