Wednesday, July 11, 2018

William Tatge's 'General Cargo' carries its freight with distinction

Pianist William Tatge and his New York trio display their "General Cargo."
Another young jazz pianist, born abroad to American parents, steeped in classical music as well as jazz. Sound familiar? Indiana jazz fans had a chance to see the emergence of the Paris-born American Dan Tepfer as a result of his victory in the 2007 American Pianists Association jazz competition.

Now comes into view William Tatge, with a trio recording called "General Cargo," released last month on Brooklyn Jazz Underground records. The Italian-born Tatge is a few years older than Tepfer, and his European foreground is much larger than the APA winner's. But he is developing an American career that has resulted in his first CD with the trio he heads in New York City. Pablo Menares is on bass, Nick Anderson on drums.

"General Cargo," which represents a six-year compositional period, shows Tatge's focus on writing that eschews themes and "heads" in favor of amalgams of spontaneity and meticulousness. The pianist's temperament seems to be earnest, even brooding, in pieces ranging from about seven to nine minutes each.

He sets out material that sounds a bit tentative, but with a lyrical bent that allows him to expand naturally the circle of expression, boosted by his compatible sidemen. Like most jazz pianism since Bud Powell, Tatge's is quite right-hand-focused, though his style owes little to bebop.

That was the impression I got particularly from the second track, "The Lay of the Land." Just as tentativeness suits an effort to assess the lay of the land, so does "Illegal Machines" favor a hint of subversiveness in its use of mechanical figures. A disjunctive melodic line easily welcomes Bartokian accents. The layout is animated in the course of its exposition by the warmth of bluesy passages.

The trio can achieve a very full sound that doesn't become cluttered. Menares' solo in "Civilization" carries a sardonic message, punctuated effectively by piano and drums. The efficiency with which foreground and background are balanced is commendable in this, the album's best track.

There is little waste in the trio's playing on "General Cargo," which palls only when the material is weak, as on "Sentinel." "Mother of Nothing" also, despite its patient, soft-spoken character, seems
too unconcerned about where it is going. It had exhausted my interest by the end of its nine-minute run. Otherwise, this CD stands out impressively from the crowded pack of today's piano-trio recordings.