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CD Review: Darn That Dream 

click to enlarge Neil Alexander, Darn That Dream, 2013, P-Dog Records
  • Neil Alexander, Darn That Dream, 2013, P-Dog Records

Ever-active Hudson Valley keyboardist Neil Alexander seemingly does it all—playing jazz fusion synth and electric piano in NAIL, the Mahavishnu Project, and Mr. Gone; out-there acid rock with Pink Floyd tribute band The Machine; and, at Beacon's Howland Cultural Center on August 10, a centennial-celebrating performance of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. But it wasn't until the recording of Darn That Dream that Alexander at last realized his own dream, of making a solo acoustic piano album. And, just a few seconds into the opening version of the Jimmy Van Heusen / Eddie DeLange title standard, it becomes crystal clear that the wait has been more than worthwhile.

In fact, one could say that that track, "Darn That Dream (Version 1)," makes a fine encapsulation of the approach Alexander displays throughout this disc: that of twinkling touches recalling his classical training and the freewheeling, impressionistic flights of his predominant postbop influences of Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, and Bill Evans, as well as the shimmering, stride-into-bop runs of the great Art Tatum. But despite the album's many moody interludes, the hammering hands of Alexander's hard-fusion background aren't brushed aside completely; see the thundering "Stop for a Moment (and Listen)," which is full of frantic passages and brings to mind Cecil Taylor dive-bombing Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee." Pristinely captured over two dates at the Falcon in Marlboro, Darn That Dream is a delight for admirers of exemplary jazz piano.

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