Jack Reilly At Maybeck Recital
September 23, 2010
Doug Ramsey (www.rifftides.com)
Reilly, Live At Maybeck Recital Hall (Unichrom).
is a small hall in Berkeley, California, loved by pianists and
listeners for the perfection of its acoustics. Carl Jefferson
of Concord Records was so taken with the sound of the room that
he initiated a series of 42 solo piano recordings there. It
began with Joanne Brackeen in 1989 and ended with James Williams
in 1995. In between is a variety of the finest pianists in jazz,
among them Dick Hyman, Jaki Byard, Ellis Larkins, Jessica Williams,
Hank Jones and George Cables. After pianist Dick Whittington
bought Maybeck, but before Concord discovered it, Jack Reilly
was one of the first artists who played there, so he is not
included in the series. That is a pity, because Reilly’s
Maybeck concert equals the best of the Concord Maybeck albums.
All is not lost, however. Reilly recently discovered that his
1988 concert existed on a cassette tape. He concluded that it
was some of his best playing and decided to release Reilly maybeck_cov.jpgit
on Unichrom, his private label. The transfer to CD may not bring
the sound up to 2010 digital perfection, but it is entirely
listenable. The slight sandpaperiness around the audio edges
does nothing to obscure Reilly’s virtuosity and creativity.
Into a program of jazz and classical pieces he pumps energy,
imagination and—in some cases—swing that is almost
physically palpable. His program encompasses Cesar Franck, Chopin,
Ravel, Strayhorn, Ellington, Gershwin, Bill Evans and two of
his own compositions. His opening piece is the Franck “Prelude,
Chorale and Fugue,” performed with subtlety, power and
fidelity to the composer.
Reilly introduces jazz to the concert when he melds Chopin’s
C-major Prelude with “Take the ‘A’ Train”
and the Chopin G-minor Prelude with “It Don’t Mean
a Thing if it Ain’t Got That Swing.” The commonality
he finds in Chopin and Strayhorn, Chopin and Ellington, corroborates
Ellington’s famous dictum that there are only two kinds
of music—good music and the other kind. Reilly makes a
medley of a Ravel minuet and three Evans pieces, incorporating
stride passages into “Waltz for Debby” and giving
“Peri’s Scope” harmonic complexity that enhances
the joy of his presentation. “November” is a fast
¾ modal piece that swirls, rumbles and blusters like
the month that gave it its name.
Reilly introduces some of the usual suspects into the lineup
of his Gershwin medley, invigorating “Someone to Watch
Over Me” and “My Man’s Gone Now” with
tempo and harmonic shifts, and ending with an “I Got Rhythm”
that summarizes his pianism and musicianship. It has blindingly
fast tremolos and runs worthy of Tatum, the left hand rampant
on a field of stride, sophisticated chord substitutions in shifting
harmonies and a free flurry at the top of the keyboard that
might make Cecil Taylor raise an eyebrow.
Throughout the concert, Reilly goes through chordal hoops and
dazzling time shifts while giving the listener melody to hold
onto; a neat trick. He is an original.
Reilly: Pure Passion: Solo Piano Improvisations (2005) from
Published: August 15, 2005 ALLABOUTJAZZ>COM
Jack Reilly: Pure Passion: Solo Piano Improvisations
the surprising wealth of exceptional music out there, discovering
any new artist is always a treat. But when one comes across
a performer as impressive as Jack Reilly—a pianist who,
while performing for over 45 years, has mysteriously remained
outside the watchful eye of the greater jazz fan base—that
joy of discovery is equally coloured with a sense of curiosity.
After all and with rare exception, Reilly has worked solely
under his own steam, releasing a small body of work that ranges
from collaborating with artists like singer Sheila Jordan, bassist
Harvie Swartz, and saxophonist Joe Maneri on his impressive
'98 release Masks, to producing a series of solo piano works
that include the two-volume Tzu-Jan and, most recently, Pure
Passion: Solo Piano Improvisations.
For those new to Reilly, Pure Passion
is a perfect entry point, mixing a programme of ten standards—some
well-heeled, others less so—with half a dozen Reilly originals,
demonstrating his outside-the-box interpretive skills. The pianist
is faithful to every song's core, while spinning a new and imaginative
tale each time.
Reilly's ability to liberally expand
on a song without losing sight of what makes it distinctive
demands obvious reference to Keith Jarrett. But the fact is,
that while Jarrett's piano improvisations—even when they're
based around a popular tune—are a kind of stream-of-consciousness
catharsis, Reilly—who is no more restricted by convention—seems
somehow more considered, even as he takes a tune like "'Round
Midnight and refashions it. Reilly makes sure that there are
some familiar signposts along the way, but how he navigates
between them is completely unexpected. Sometimes it's not the
destination but how you get there, and Reilly consistently makes
his improvisations trips worth taking, filled with enticing
sights and surprising turns.
Reilly's unfettered use of dynamics and
an elastic time sense, only possible in a solo setting, allows
an oft-covered tune like "Summertime to take on a completely
different complexion. He leans to the impressionistic and at
times the romantic, but there's a more direct tie to classical
roots than to pianists like Bill Evans—although there's
no question that Evans factors into Reilly's collected experience.
But what makes Pure Passion so remarkable is that, despite its
reliance on the standards repertoire, it's a completely contemporary
work. All the while it retains the accessibility and sense of
tradition that more rooted players like Hank Jones or Cedar
Walton demonstrate under the same circumstances.
The true test of an interpreter of standards
material, in the context of a larger solo performance, is whether
he can somehow blur the line between the familiar and the unfamiliar,
connecting the listener equally to both. Reilly doesn't apply
a different aesthetic to his own compositions—they demonstrate
the same road markers, giving them a discernable structure,
yet often weave their way between them in less than predictable
With Pure Passion as an entry point to
the talents of Jack Reilly, the good news is that there's plenty
more where that came from.
Track Listing: All the Things You Are;
Round Midnight; Ghost of a Chance; WIth a Song in My Heart;
Das Fryderyk; Can't Get Started; Summertime; These Foolish Things;
Nobody's Heart; Everything I Love; You Don't Know What Love
Is; Kim; Aria for Freddy; Six Plus Six; Sixth Cycle of Sevens;
Blues for Gp.
Personnel: Jack Reilly: piano.
Label: Unichrom | Style: Straightahead/Mainstream
OF JACK REILLY'S PERFORMANCE IN BALTIMORE:
17, 2009 review by Clint Tsao
pianist and composer Jack Reilly continued his impressive series
of performances with Innocence, Music for Healing at The Johns
Hopkins Weinberg Ceremonial Lobby on November 17, 2009. The
noontime set was just the tonic in the middle of a work week
and provided much needed relief, hope, and entertainment to
the appreciative audience. Assisted by veteran bassist Ashton
Fletcher, the two played as if they had been touring for years.
What followed was a nice selection of Reilly composed pieces.
The program was divided into three parts with choice excerpts
from The Silence of the Heart, The Green Spring Suite, and Sonata
in D Minor. The Silence of the Heart segment was dedicated to
Dr. Martin Abeloff who had passed away recently.
six selections form a compassionate and optimistic mood. Starting
with Db Major, a solemn measured beginning, and through C# Minor
and its upbeat tempo and D Major with its more abstract structure,
it carries an emotional resonance punctuated with daring plateaus
complemented by playful rhythms. With D Minor, this jaunty celebration
continues its playful bouquet of notes culminating in a melodic
flurry. Eb Minor tones down and slows the pace and the final
piece, F Major, uplifts the mood again and ends in a joyous
The next part, The Green Spring Suite, with four selections,
was inspired by Mr. Reilly’s treatment at The Johns Hopkins
Green Spring location, and is a tribute to the staff who helped
his recovery. Beginning with Oncological, there is an energy
and positive inspiration which contrasts with Rn’t Any
with its stately, honorable tone that rises to a majestic height.
Caroline is full of life and vigor and displays a lofty spirit,
and it comes back to earth after a nice ride. Concluding with
Gobaj, a series of repetitive chords are countered by imaginative
melodies with an Indian influence before returning to familiar
ground. The last part was represented by Mr. Reilly’s
early composition, Sonata in D Minor from 1957, which sounds
fresh even by today’s standards. Originally a solo piano
piece, it was reworked into a duet with Mr. Fletcher. This performance
was abbreviated and moderately paced. It nevertheless confirmed
the talent and creativity of what was to come, demonstrating
an early innovative approach to traditional jazz. A gratified
audience demanded an encore which Mr. Reilly and Mr. Fletcher
accommodated with a zippy tune. It was a nice conclusion to
a welcome celebration of life and creativity through music.