Aaron Diehl


Space Time Continuum
(Mack Avenue)

The album’s title is a clever play on the multi-generational lineup led by pianist Aaron Diehl. Several guests, young and old, join the core trio of Diehl, bassist David Wong and drummer Quincy Davis on several tracks. Like his 2013 breakthrough, The Bespoke Man’s Narrative, Diehl has come up with a solid effort that evokes the past.

The theme of a continuum extends to the material. Walter Davis Jr.’s “Uranus” is a hard-bop burner that sounds completely contemporary in the trio’s hands. Conversely, Diehl’s “The Steadfast Titan” and “Organic Consequence” wouldn’t sound out of place on a Duke Ellington or Art Blakey record, respectively.

Given the relatively straightforward nature of the material, the individual performances carry a lot of weight. Diehl’s fluid, measured solos are never less than enjoyable. “Flux Capacitor” features the light-toned tenor saxophone of Stephen Riley, while Bruce Harris contributes solid trumpet work on “Organic Consequence” and the title track. Two saxophone legends make appearances. Joe Temperley contributes elegant work on baritone on “The Steadfast Titan,” while the great tenorman Benny Golson lends his beautiful, relaxed tone to “Organic Consequence” and the title track.

The only downside to the proceedings is the occasional lack of spark. After a brooding, classical-inspired opening, “Santa Maria” never quite takes flight even after shifting to a light swing. And in showing so much reverence for the past, it sometimes seems as if Diehl is holding something back. Perhaps that’s why “Kat’s Dance,” composed by Diehl’s contemporary Adam Birnbaum, stands out for its more modern-sounding melodic and harmonic development (not to mention the great duet work of Diehl and Riley).

But then you get to the closing title track. A multi-sectional work that features vocals from the excellent up-and-comer Charenee Wade (and lyrics by Cécile McLorin Salvant, another rising star singer), it offers a compelling hint of where the future might fit into Diehl’s space-time continuum. —John Frederick Moore

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