Jazz demands (or at least requests) that its practitioners come to the stage with a storehouse of musical knowledge–a solid foundation for the improvising that defines the idiom. So the steady parade of jazz prodigies remains surprising: Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Lee Morgan, McCoy Tyner, Kenny Barron, and Wynton Marsalis are among those who made a serious impression before their 20th birthdays. I hesitate to put pianist Taylor Eigsti in their company; no 18-year-old should have to brook such a comparison. But I also hesitate not to, because he already reveals an unusually mature musical awareness and an impressive grasp of his own abilities, as well as a sense of what he needs to avoid. On his fourth album, Resonance (due next month on Bop City), Eigsti doesn’t try to overplay the fast stuff–a blistering version of Sonny Rollins’s “Oleo” benefits from his decision to concentrate on relatively uncluttered single-note lines (which makes a manic stride-piano break, a la Earl Hines, all the more effective). And on the slow and moody material (a minefield for veterans, let alone younger players) he neither drags nor rushes: his motile and mysterious arrangement of “Angel Eyes” rescues the standard from cliche and proves that he can distinguish sentiment from bathos. I look forward to hearing more of Eigsti’s own compositions; the several on this album, while not terrifically innovative, spark some of his most spirited improvising. A protege of Dave Brubeck, Eigsti last appeared in town at the 2001 Chicago Jazz Festival, performing some of the more challenging piano parts in Brubeck’s resurrection of material from his forward-leaning octet of the late 1940s; he works this week with Ramsey Lewis’s unimpeachable Chicago-based rhythm section, bassist Larry Gray and drummer Ernie Adams. Friday and Saturday, July 11 and 12, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, July 13, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Jackson.