Blindfold Bootleg Series: Julian Shore

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Julian Shore is one of THOSE players.  And by that I mean that if you listen with intent to what he’s playing on the bandstand, you will often find yourself shaking your head in disbelief.  I’ve had the great fortune of making music with this fine gentleman for the past several years, most recently on a spring US tour with bassist Michael Feinberg’s Humblebrag.  Here’s Julian’s Test:


I do want to preface this with how difficult this was for me, given the wealth of influences present in so many pianists nowadays… A lot of these bootlegs sound like they’re pretty recent. Also I utterly stink at identifying modern pianists. I’ll do my best, but I’m not really certain with any of these! I just sort of stream-of-conciousness-ed them as I went along. I mostly just tried to pick out the influences I heard in each player, rather than definitively say one way of the other.

Example 1:  Fred Hersch, Nobody Else But Me,  live in NYC in duo with Mark Turner (year unknown).

1. My initial reaction is this sounds like Fred Hersch, so if it’s not Fred it’s someone very influenced by him. The touch sounds a little aggressive for Fred so maybe it’s not him (or maybe it’s the recording). But the material sure fits. Great contrapuntal playing between the hands, and that same bouncy feel. Even moving up to the high register with those little syncopations sounds like him. It’s slightly lacking in his normal sense of insane control at the end there I suppose, but maybe he’s just reaching for stuff. Either way it sounds fantastic whoever it is!
After:  Very cool. Fred’s really sounding so strong here, I’m curious when the recording is from. Special playing!
Example 2:  Aruan Ortiz, Ask me Now live at the Regattabar in Cambridge (year unknown)
2. Same sort of thing with the last one, only this sounds very much like Jason Moran to me. Lots of phrases and ideas I’ve heard from Jason before, and the interplay/use of space fits. Lots of cool, oblique phrases that abruptly change directions and are pulling from a very non-tonal place. And the time’s stretching all over the place. It’s nice to hear this kind of treatment of Ask Me Now, which is played so much these days. I really like it, very unique playing and it sounds like they’re really searching and playing without fear. Just playing what they’re hearing, and it’s great material. 
After:  Ahhh Aruan! Wow, I haven’t heard him in a while, but he’s always been a phenomenal player. Listening back, I’m pretty surprised I had such strong pull to Jason’s name. I think some confirmation bias took over! Regardless, it’s a free, organic and beautiful performance.
Example 3:  McCoy Tyner, Darn That Dream live at the Regattabar in Cambridge (year unknown)

3. This one sounds like an older musician to me. The facility and pedal control sound like they’ve taken a hit over the years, but it’s still a great performance. Nice dynamics and a bit of arrangement to Darn That Dream. That big, booming left-hand is really reminiscent of McCoy’s solo piano playing, especially at the end with the right hand chordal stuff. Definitely reminds me of that, but without the furious pentatonic fills that usually accompany it. Also some of the lefthand voice movement is throwing me off. George Cables maybe? 

After:  Yeah, that left hand was kind of a giveaway for McCoy. But he is really sounding great here, even though it must be quite late into his career. Certainly a departure from his earlier solo records that I’ve heard.

Example 4:  Aaron Goldberg, Impressions live in Portugal with Nicholas Payton.

4. If this isn’t Aaron Goldberg, it’s someone very influenced by him. A lot of his trademark solo material littered throughout, as well as his touch and feel. Or maybe this is one of the guys who influenced Aaron! What do I know…. Also plenty of Kenny Kirkland influence as well. Very much coming out of that 80’s/early 90’s style of jazz piano, so it’s someone inspired by that tradition (which is obviously coming out of McCoy). Could be one of those 90’s guys. Beats me! But it’s swinging and has a lot of energy so it’s fun to listen to. 

After:  Yep, Aaron sounding great as always. He’s as rock solid as they come, always so strong and controlled. Nasty!

Example 5:  Leo Genovese, Berlin (Jason Palmer)  live in NYC with Jason Palmer Septet

5. This is one of your tunes Jason, right? ‘Berlin’ maybe? I can’t remember… I think I’ve played it before once. This guy or gal sounds like they’re coming out of Herbie, not that they’re sounding like a clone or anything. That 3-2-1 minor scale thing Herbie does is present in the beginning, and then it diverges into some really interesting line playing. A little time-stretchy sometimes, and it phases in and out of the harmony creatively which I like. Lots of chops, strong playing! I’m going to guess Cedric here maybe? 

After:  To be honest I’m a little shocked this is Leo! He’s always been such a chameleon, but even then, this one seems uncharacteristic. He was actually my piano teacher in high school (via Hal Crook), though I was a total slacker (Sorry Leo!). He’s long been a huge inspiration to me, and one of my very favorite musicians. Seeing him play with Hal every week in RI was one of the biggest reasons I got into playing jazz. Sad I didn’t get this one!

Example 6: Gerald Clayton, Blues live at Jazz Gallery NYC with Patrick Cornelius Octet (2013).

6. Definitely someone who’s been listening to Paul Bley (one of my favorites!). Similar feel and variation of touch to his lines. Some of his ‘licks.’ One of the few modern guys I can think of who’s REALLY coming out of Paul is Aaron Parks, who I also love. At first I thought it might be Aaron, but then he or she plays some uncharacteristic things there at the end, pulling from Herbie and other more usual-suspect jazz piano language. Maybe a really polished younger guy who’s still sewing his influences together? I haven’t heard a whole lot from him, but I’ve always really enjoyed his playing so maybe Christian Li? Or Luke? I’m going to feel like an idiot if I’m way off-base here… Could easily be a veteran with how great the playing is (like Gerald Clayton or something).

After:  Hah! Look at that… I really thought this was Gerald, but the young kids are all sounding so great these days, and they really seem to be pulling from a similar set of influences. Thought you might be getting sneaky! And of course Gerald is still very young. He’s just incredible… brilliant player.

Example 7:  Dave Kikoski, Mr. Day live in Xalapa Mexico with Jason Palmer, Francisco Mela, Emilliano Coronel (2013).

7. More of the pentatonic-based “power piano” playing we heard in example four, but this time pulling even harder from Kenny and McCoy. Very on-top, percussive feel; pulling the rhythm section along for the ride 🙂 Maybe Joey Calderazzo? For a second I thought it might be Orrin Evans out of the sheer strength of the playing, but I really don’t think it’s him. Danny Grissett maybe? I’m not very well versed with the material unfortunately, I feel like this one should be really obvious to me. Really no clue, but it’s someone who’s terrific at this style! Really impressive piano playing.

After:  Of course, Kikoski. Don’t know how his name slipped my mind, he’s a perfect fit. Beast of a pianist!

Julian has several great recordings out, one of my favorites being Filaments.  Keep up with the latest happenings with Julian by visiting his website!

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