by Bill Anschell


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One of the more prolific exponents of the Northwest jazz sound, pianist Bill Anschell has figured in any number of excellent recordings, both as a bandleader and as an accompanist. In Figments, he takes a turn at solo piano, running through songs from pop, jazz, and the American songbook and reworking them into wandering (he describes it as stream of consciousness) arrangements that sometimes provide jazz underpinnings for classic pop, and sometimes explode the pieces into their atomic elements, looking for interesting tidbits in the debris. "Alice's Restaurant" weaves between ragtime, nightclub jazz, and deeper introspective chunks. Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" is actually performed on prepared piano (a piano with objects placed in/on the strings to change their sounds), and heads toward a sort of acoustic electronica. The thing that sets Figments apart from the now-standard jazz performances of pop classics is the ease with which Anschell wanders away from tunes, finding interesting motives in them and expanding on them freely, eventually to return to the main melodies. As he wanders around the songs, Anschell shows off a striking facility with different styles of play -- he can touch on stride piano (fittingly) in "Honeysuckle Rose," he can twinkle through arpeggios in "Desperado," and he can move to the ethereal in "Ask My Why." The music is rarely bouncing on Figments, but it remains catchy despite itself. The real key here is Anschell's ability to avoid adapting the songs into a simple piano jazz format and to come up with something both remarkably new and still recognizable. An excellent set.

Product Details

Release Date: 04/19/2011
Label: Origin Records
UPC: 0805558259029
catalogNumber: 82590

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