WBGO Radar

Aaron Diehl: "Space, Time, Continuum"

aaron diehl space time continuum

Pianist Aaron Diehl was always someone to watch. His classical lessons began at age 7. At Interlochen, he discovered the worlds of Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, and Duke Ellington.

Diehl would go on to tour with the Wynton Marsalis Septet, make his first album, The Bespoke Man's Narrative, with Mack Avenue, and tour with Grammy-nominated vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant.

No wonder his upcoming release is titled Space, Time, Continuum! 

Bespoke featured a tight-fitting quartet, blessed with what writer Stanley Crouch called "empathetic listening to one another," as they visited works by Gershwin, Ellington, Ravel, and Milt Jackson, alongside their own smartly conceived originals.

With this followup album, Diehl follows no pattern, except in looking back to move quickly forward.

"Uranus" is a tune written by pianist Walter Davis during his time with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. This opener lets us quickly feel the synergy between the leader, bassist David Wong and drummer Quincy Davis.

"The Steadfast Titan" is a tribute to baritone sax legend Joe Temperley, and features Temperley himself on this Diehl original, which could be looking for a Scorsese film to attach itself to.

"Flux Capacitor" has a similarly cinematic feeling, only at a much faster pace. Stephen Riley's tenor saxophone, which seems to have arrived from all the decades, adds a nice spirit as this Diehl reel quickly reveals itself.

Another original by the leader, "Organic Consequence," was written with Benny Golson in mind. It features the tenor giant alongside trumpeter Bruce Harris. Diehl swirls a modern melody which manages a quote of "You Must Remember This," en route to a hip close.

There's one the trio's obviously excited about, "Broadway Boogie Woogie."

The title track, with lyrics by Cecile McLorin Salvant, is delivered by the rich soulful voice of Charnee Wade, who provides the perfect Diehlivery needed for the group to swing ahead and out.

In Aaron Diehl's playing and composing, there comfortably rests the natural musical history necessary to move things ahead along the space-time continuum. With music like this in his head and heart for our ears and eyes to take in, I can bet on a most a most enjoyable ride.

Space, Timem Continuum comes out June 16th from Mack Avenue Records.

   - Gary Walker, WBGO music director

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