By Michael Jackson | Published January 2017
It’s been almost a dozen years since the release of Chicago-based pianist Jo Ann Daugherty’s excellent sophomore outing, Range Of Motion (Blujazz, 2005). Her versatility pulled her into theater pit work, including stints conducting and performing for Jersey Boys and Motown: The Musical. Her new release, Bring Joy, is influenced by the communicative experience of touring with such smash musicals, but borne out of the intimate simpatico of her long-running trio with drummer Ryan Bennett and bassist Lorin Cohen.
Daugherty’s playing always has kick, bounce and a structural precision that recalls the nimble smarts of Cedar Walton, but she elected to rein it in for this odyssey, seeking lyrical message over complexity. You can almost visualize this former farm girl from Missouri skipping to retrieve “Water From An Ancient Well,” as she reimagines Abdullah Ibrahim’s sublimely simple theme, bookended here with his poignant and profound “The Wedding.”
Cohen contributes three effective originals, including the episodic “Unconditionally”—during which piano deftly flips bottom-end duties under a bass lead line—and his classy dependability is key to the joyous spring in Daugherty’s digits.
The fine Stevie Wonder and Herbie Hancock covers notwithstanding, the central moment of Bring Joy is the beautifully bluesy restraint that the trio lays down (abetted with fills from guitarist Felton Offard) on Daugherty’s unpretentious “BJ’s Tune,” written for succinct Chicago trumpeter BJ Levy.
Bring Joy: Water From An Ancient Well; The Way You Know Me; Unconditionally; The Secret Life Of Plants; Alive; Elsewhere; BJ’s Tune; Hope For Love; Dolphin Dance; The Wedding. (42:19)
Personnel: Jo Ann Daugherty, piano; Ryan Bennett, drums; Lorin Cohen, bass; Neal Alger, Felton Offard, guitar.