Brian Dickinson Trio CD Reviewed

Fishs EddyToronto pianist Brian Dickinson let more than two decades go by between the release of his two trio albums. In 1993, he put out the standards-heavy Live At The Senator. And while there have been duo, quartet and other discs in the years after, it wasn’t until last year that Dickinson, who is now in his mid-50s, released the studio trio CD Fishs Eddy. That impeccably recorded album was in the running for a Juno Award this year, and with good reason. It’s a rich and revealing collection of music from an assured and lucid pianist who could already burn in the early 1990s, but who’s in his prime now. Featuring Dickinson along with the A-list American bassist George Mraz and the young but mature-beyond-his-years Toronto drummer Ethan Ardelli, Fishs Eddy is a gorgeous and substantial listen. Between its two standards and six originals, the disc reflects the influence of two of Dickinson’s main heroes — Richie Beirach, who taught him for two years when Dickinson lived in the U.S., and Bill Evans, who informs some of Dickinson’s harmonic choices and echoes in his lyricism. The standards —  I Loves You Porgy, which opens the disc, and the mid-way track Never Let Me Go — are lush ballads that Evans notably elevated. Dickinson, Mraz and Ardelli do the great material proud. In the distinctive and finely wrought originals, you can often hear an appreciation of Beirach’s piquant, post-Evans harmonies. Mraz, who played with Beirach and recorded on some of his classic early 1980s albums, is a perfect fit on Fishs Eddy, and it seems as if Dickinson sought to maximize the bass great’s participation, assigning him arco lead duties on the theme of the waltzing pieces Delaware Daze and Limbo. On other tracks, it’s often Mraz’s commanding bass that takes the first solo. Other highlights include the straight-eighths title track, with its sunny and then knotty feels, and the surging piece Gateway. As compositions and performances, both expertly blend musical complexity and emotional directness. Dickinson recently told me that his next project will feature two saxophones, tenor saxophonist Kelly Jefferson and alto player Luis Deniz. “A Crosscurrents sort of band,” Dickinson wrote me, referring to pianist Evans’ 1978 album with hornmen Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh. I have high hopes for this album, of course. But let’s hope that Dickinson doesn’t stall too long before putting out his third trio disc. As a composer and a player, he obviously flourishes in that format too.

Peter Hum, Ottawa Citizen
Published on: April 29, 2015View Original Artcile