Daniel Kelly – Emerge (2009)

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Daniel Kelly is a keyboardist and composer with three albums since 2000 already under his belt before this one, and given his predilection for delving into so many different styles, every release has been a surprise. For Emerge, Kelly’s theme is the piano trio format, but to him, that’s hardly limiting. Sometimes he switches over to a Fender Rhodes, and sometimes the music he plays is barely jazz at all. But each time out he demonstrates real depth in his songwriting and plenty of chops in his piano playing. To carry out his ambitious game plan, Kelly chose his rhythm section well: Juno Award winner Chris Tarry on bass and Jordan Perlson, former member of the criminally underrated prog rock group Echolyn, on drums.

“Moroccan Nutchuck” right away shows that Kelly is serious about mixing it up, going from electric piano-anchored slow funk electric to turbulent acoustic piano and back again. “Obfyor” is a frenetic, imaginatively conceived organic drum ‘n’ bass cut, and “Emerge” shows off Kelly’s regard for Brazilian song forms. On “Anima/Animus,” the band starts off delicately and works itself into a major sweat; Tarry’s bass work is especially superb. “Doppelganger” manages to rock hard without any guitars, because Kelly’s Rhodes is doing the crunching instead. Two of the softer pieces, “July 2th” and “Song For Katherine” are the best of the ballads, the latter a pretty tune with crafty tempo shifts by Perlson and a gorgeous bass solo by Tarry.

A U.S. State Department Jazz Ambassador who’s been successful in chamber music and film scoring in addition to most forms of jazz can make pretty much whatever record he wants to. For Emerge, Daniel Kelly chose to make a highly varied, challenging but listenable record.

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