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Pianist Bobby Avey Ventures into the 'Inhuman Wilderness,' Innervoice Jazz, [REVIEW]

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Aug 24, 2016 08:11 AM EDT | Mike Greenblatt (m.greenblatt@classicalite.com)

Bobby Avey

Pianist-Composer Bobby Avey writes in protest of what he calls an 'Inhuman Wilderness.' (Photo : Jonno Rattman)

For his fifth CD, pianist/composer Bobby Avey has turned his attention to societal ills and injustices, in other words, Inhuman Wilderness, as he calls it. It's only the second release for the new Innervoice Jazz label, run by pianist Marc Copland out of New York City, and it's a brave avant-accessible work.

Avey's trio with bassist Thomson Kneeland and drummer Jordan Perlson has been expanded into a quartet with the addition of alto sax man John O'Gallagher. This gives the composer more wiggle room in fleshing out his protests. To do so, he's included way-cool elements of Balkan folk music and Haitian Vodou drumming.

"Rent The Sky" was written in protest of American drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan where the "Countless Voices of Unknown People" can never be heard. "I Should Have Known No Less" is a line he copped from William Shakespeare's 1607 Antony and Cleopatra. In the face of such man-made tragedies, "Composure Must Be Rare" is a piece that took six years for him to write, and was originally commissioned for string quartet + piano.

Filled with the kind of high-wire balancing acts that defy gravity in keeping the listener enthralled, Avey has found a sweet ear spot between accessibility and the avant-garde. That's why Inhuman Wilderness stands out. It's different, engaging and the solos are so smack dab satisfying (and all within difficult contexts), that you will find yourself mesmerized by its audacity, theme, execution and almost telepathic interplay.

NEA 2010 Jazz Master Dave Liebman will tell you all about Avey who plays piano in Liebman's Expansions band. He's the kind of probing musician who will never be content to simply swing or engage in the kind of retro that serves tradition but doesn't bring the music forward. That's to his credit. [Please note the imbedded video is from a previous project. Still, it gives the listener insight into the kind of mysterioso ambiance Avey encourages.]

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