There may be hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of hugely talented jazz musicians who never receive their due. Blame geography, fashion, personal problems, circumstances beyond their control, pure choice, or simply that there's only room for a few in the spotlight. Luckily, one of them, 81-year-old pianist/teacher Lee Shaw from the Albany, NY area, was finally able to make her move with this lovely collection of piano trio jazz, recorded at the request of some enlightened officials at the Austrian Broadcast Company (ORF). She is that rare thing in jazz -- an unabashed melodicist, able to spin reams of tuneful solo lines that are always easy-to-follow and logically constructed. The material mostly consists of Shaw's own tunes, with but one well-known standard ("Street of Dreams") among the rest -- and she manages to stamp her joyous lyrical personality on every bar. Sometimes the classically trained Shaw spins off Baroque-like variations on her themes, exploring techniques that few since Dave Brubeck
have bothered to pursue. She guilelessly confesses that she named one selection "Song Without Words" because she couldn't think of any (well, neither could Mendelssohn
-- many times over), and then goes ahead and tells stories in song that don't require any explanation. Shaw, bassist Rich Syracuse
, and drummer Jeff "Seige" Siegel form a simpatico, unified team -- always listening and reacting to each other in this live performance situation (one can forgive the occasional unnecessary drum solo). The Austrian night club is small, attendance seems sparse, yet the ORF comes through with excellent live sound on each instrument. The handsomely packaged CD comes with separately tracked spoken introductions by Shaw for most songs -- and there is a bonus DVD with additional live performances as well as an interview; the latter gives us, at best, a sketchy idea of the places and personalities that Shaw has known over her long life.