By Dustin Krcatovich | Published August 2019
Listening to Stories From Here And There—a work from New York-based pianist Tuomo Uusitalo that’s heavily indebted to the cool/post-bop epoch—is akin to drinking a decent glass of wine that doesn’t quite bowl you over upfront. Close attention, though, reveals a greater complexity.
Uusitalo has a way with melody, but he’s not afraid to pound a bit; the upbeat take on Irving Berlin’s “Best Thing For You (Would Be Me)” is a strong showcase for both tendencies. The band is joined for about half the album by saxophonist Chris Cheek, who often gooses his compatriots further out on a limb with some well-placed blue notes. The ensemble’s take on Thelonious Monk’s “Boo Boo’s Birthday,” otherwise a tad genteel, is elevated by Cheek’s nudging, his subtle rudeness yielding a more engaging end result.
The best moments on Stories From Here And There find Uusitalo taking major steps to refine his compositional voice: “Altitude 5003 Ft.,” in particular, is a fine, free-wheeling ballad, and one that gives drummer Itay Morchi plenty of room to dance around the beat, tease the edges and blurt out punctuation. More steps in this direction surely would be welcomed.
Though it might benefit from more risk taking, Stories is still a fine way to pass the time. It’s unlikely to change a life, but perfectly capable of changing a mood for the better. To close where we opened: It’s pretty tasty, but it helps to let it rest on the back of your tongue for a bit.
Stories From Here And There: Be Good Or Be Gone; Poem No. 4 (In And Out Of The Frame); Best Thing For You (Would Be Me); Altitude 5003 Ft.; Boo Boo’s Birthday; Between Things; Solitude; Many Mornings; Bouncin’ With Bud; Poem No. 8 (Crepuscule); Tonight You Belong To Me. (36:32)
Personnel: Tuomo Uusitalo, piano; Myles Sloniker, bass; Itay Morchi, drums; Chris Cheek, tenor saxophone.