Review Summary: A jazz classic that shouldn't need an introduction.
The majority of today's population is, say, less than thrilled by jazz. It's understandable in some regards, but the lack of respect it gets, for how much it deserves, as an influential and varied genre is very much a shame. And this is without mention of it being one of the greatest American inventions and its grassroots campaign into rock and roll.
There is plenty of jazz being made today, but relishing the classics never goes out of style. When trying to insert it into modern times, the more accessible, the better. While Miles Davis and his band had some very accessible and quite varied albums, Phineas (pronounced fine-us) Newborn, Jr. had some of his own. Personally, piano driven jazz is much easier to get into, and that’s right where we find ourselves when listening to A World of Piano!.
His band is spot on, but Phineas is in his prime. Obviously, piano is the driving force of the album, and the playing is one step beyond masterful. Speed, technical skill, originality; the display is impressive. “Oleo” is an exhibition in feel-good jazz with an upbeat swing. I don’t know if he had eighty eight keys, but if he did, you can bet they were all used. The album isn’t all finger snapping grooves though. We get a more tasteful side with the elegance of “Lush Life”, a slower, more beautiful song with a New York City lounge feel.
It's clear that Phineas was the centerpiece, but nonetheless, he is not imposing. The band gets their fair share throughout all of the songs, collectively making a record that could make Rat Pack fans cream their pants. PNJ creates long solos layered over jumpy drums and frantic bass lines. It is jazz in every sense of the word, but crosses the border of accessibility through and through.
Comparatively, this is a short album. You can listen to Bitches Brew all day, but A World of Piano! sits confidently with modest time lengths, only breaking six minutes twice and never hitting the eight minute mark.
I’ve heard things like “if you can like any jazz album, it’s Kind of Blue”, or something to that effect. I found this album at the same time I started delving into Miles. You could insert this where Kind of Blue sits in that sentence and it would work. A World of Piano! can be just as sexy as it is a good time. When you think piano-driven jazz, you should be thinking A World of Piano!.