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CD Review: The David Arner Trio--"Out/In the Open" 

(2009, Not Two Records)

It’s gratifying to see David Arner finally getting some acknowledgement from beyond the, shall we say, rarified confines of the local free-jazz scene. After giving of himself for several years as the curator of the revelatory New Vanguard Series, the Port Ewen pianist bowed out of that role to concentrate on his own music—a well-earned move that’s very quickly paid off, artistically speaking. Besides performing at New York’s prestigious Vision Festival—the music’s World Series, if you will—Arner has caught the ears of some key labels. With his trio of Troy bassist Michael Bisio and New York drummer Jay Rosen, the leader recently waxed two CDs of his impressions of Porgy and Bess material for CIMP, as well as this superb outing for Poland’s Not Two imprint.

Intimately and pristinely recorded in the pianist’s living room, Out/In the Open is an aural delight, six lengthy, spontaneous performances that add up to an hour of astonishing music. Fans of Bisio revere him for his exceptional arco technique and right away they’ll be satisfied by the opener, “Double Nature,” which begins with his bow scraping the strings with deliciously painful slowness. Arner’s churning chops have won him comparisons to Cecil Taylor, but to these ears his touch is more wistful, not nearly as heavy-handed. Perhaps a less bluesy, more abstract McCoy Tyner is more accurate. In that light, it’s the closer, a poignant but exploratory deconstruction of Rodgers and Hart’s “My Romance,” that offers the most telling glimpse into Arner’s Great American Songbook roots.

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