Guy Mintus Trio

A Gershwin Playground Enja 9683

When performing standards, one can elicit smiles of recognition by conforming to expectations. It’s easy, if not especially daring. Or you can take chances, challenge yourself to find some new angle on the tune while risking a pratfall.

Guy Mintus doesn’t just cross the line, he obliterates it. His bold reimaginings of each track, animated by his brilliant sidekicks, take listeners on a rocket ride to heights where they can see these tunes as if for the first time. Repeated plays reveal a profound adaptability to Gershwin’s writing, repertoire the Israeli pianist said is “relevant, multi-layered and full of possibilities.”

On “Summertime,” the trio sprints into the beloved ballad at a burning tempo, cooking up an incongruous blend of funk and Latin ingredients. In his vocal, Mintus follows his own course, with modal, Middle Eastern nuances complementing the melody. From there, they race through a fun house of colors and surprises, with the bandleader creating a unison piano/scat solo that pushes the tune even further. These fireworks ultimately illuminate the spirit of the composition; it’s irreverent and reverent at the same time.

The revelations keep coming: the wordless wailing that begins “I Loves You Porgy,” the unexpected straightahead treatment of “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” (which showcases Omri Hadani’s bass), and the wild accelerando and crashing finish to “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off.” But “Rhapsody In Blue” lingers. On his own, Mintus plays a fantasia, slipping from written to improvised passages, including a furious fusion of stride and klezmer. Pure and simple, it’s a tour de force.