Gary Versace

All For Now

Gershwin’s “The Man I Love” is a fairly protean standard, the sort of song that can be dressed up in almost any style and still retain its essential longing. Except here. Two tracks into All For Now, pianist Gary Versace not only recasts the song as a warped New Orleans shuffle, gently nudged along by Jay Anderson’s prodding bass and Obed Calvaire’s clattering ride cymbal, but he puckishly dresses the melody in Monk-style seconds. So, where we’d usually get torchy blues, the bandleader gives us itchy dissonance over an off-kilter groove. It’s almost like hearing a whole new song.

Versace also plays around with the harmony on “Good Morning Heartache,” slyly working enough dissonance into the B-section to undercut the melody’s uplift. But All For Now is less about upending the way we think of standards than it is about Versace articulating his approach to jazz piano. Although he’s recorded extensively as a sideman on piano, most of his sessions as a leader have been on B-3 organ. And while those albums have given him ample opportunity to show off his harmonic ingenuity (Organic-Lee, with Lee Konitz, is especially fine in that regard), All For Now makes a solid case for what an all-around inventive player he is.

Take, for instance, “Two Peas.” Instead of the usual melody/harmony/rhythm hierarchy, Versace has the trio playing in counterpoint, and his skittering phrases draw out the others while keeping the tune delightfully off-balance. Likewise, the rangy “Favorite Places (Room 448)” seems more a conversation than a composition, changing mood and rhythm as it goes along, with Versace’s control of dynamics keeping the playing focused and directed.

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