Woodland

“Canons”

(Newvelle Records)

The understated radiance of pianist Carmen Staaf has been on full display in recent years. An accomplished musician, composer and educator, Staaf turned heads in projects alongside drummer Allison Miller, as well as with her own trio, whose first recording, 2019’s Bloom, was actually under drummer Jeff Williams’ name. The threesome, also featuring bassist Michael Formanek, recorded the lovely Woodland for Newvelle in 2019, just before the pandemic lockdown, and the poignant music, released in 2020, seems to split the difference between wistful and hopeful. The delicate “Canons” is just such an expression, quietly unfolding from Staaf’s classically inspired playing. Formanek’s gorgeous tone provides the perfect counterpoint, as Williams supplies rhythm and texture with deft brush work and open-hand strikes. Staaf’s featherlike touch just about registers as she all but hovers over the piano keys during Formanek’s solo, and the bassist concludes the song with quiet reverberations along the neck of his bass (all of which can be seen on the YouTube video for the song).

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