Pianist Uli Geissendoerfer has certainly had a wide-ranging career, in fact several. Originally from Munich, Germany and based in Las Vegas since 2009, he has worked with a wide variety of artists including Tito Puente, Groove Collective, Giovanni Hidalgo, William Cepeda, Blood, Sweat & Tears, and the Cirque du Soleil show to name a few. An award-winning film composer, he has run the Jazz Club at the Dispensary Lounge since 2012, works with the UNLV Latin Jazz Orchestra, and leads a variety of groups ranging from jazz to World Music.
Long Way Home, which was his sixth recording as a leader, was the pianist’s first trio session. He is joined by the brilliant bassist Dave Ostrem and drummer Angelo Stokes (with Ryan Rose in his place on one song). Performing six originals and reworkings of three standards, Geissendoerfer never just repeats choruses with the same chord changes. His performances with his trio evolve as they progress, are sometimes episodic, explore a variety of moods and tempos, and often build to a passionate level.
This set begins with an unusual reworking of George Harrison’s “Here Comes The Sun” which is a rhythmically complex interpretation that, while keeping the melody in mind, also includes a long but never predictable vamp. “The Long Way Home” is mostly a peaceful trip, has a classical-type melody, and swings. “Urban Cowboy” is irresistibly funky and a bit eccentric with bassist Ostrem playing a prominent role while “Sudden Moment” is relatively relaxed.
A highpoint is “Monk’s Mouse” during which the pianist hints at Thelonious Monk in spots without directly copying him. The cooking blues has its eccentricities along with colorful interplay featuring drummer Stokes. “Be Still” is fairly mellow. The high-powered “5-67” is rhythmically tricky (mostly being in 7/4 time) and has some dazzling playing from the three musicians. The program concludes with reinvented versions of “You And The Night And The Music” and the Beatles’ “Blackbird” (retitled “Blackbird Comes Together”).
The highly enjoyable Long Way Home serves as an excellent introduction to the brilliant piano playing of Uli Geissendoerfer.
Scott Yanow, jazz journalist/historian