…worthy addition to the ECM solo piano catalogue and will delight followers of both the jazz-related releases and New Series recordings of the imprint.

ECM 2779 / 551 5448

Nitai Hershkovits (piano)

Recorded June 2022

The ECM catalogue boasts a long line in solo piano recordings, and with “Call on the Old Wise,” it has another impressive album to add to the library.

Previously heard on “Here Be Dragons” and “Isabela” with tenor saxophonist Oded Tzur, this is Hershkovits’s debut under his own name for the label in a beguiling and constantly shifting set of pieces that appear to explore multiple ideas and directions simultaneously.

In this mostly improvised set of eighteen pieces, none of which exceed four and a half minutes, each appears as a fully formed miniature. All are just the right length; there are no static or dull spots, and even when at their briefest and done in little more than a minute, there is a sense of completeness and that playing anything more would destroy the mood and balance of the composition.

In approaching the music in such a spontaneous manner, there is little in the way of a thematic structure to proceedings, although Hershkovits does state that three of the pieces, “The Old Wise,” “Of Mentorship,” and “For Suzan,” are dedicated to his former piano teacher Suzan Cohen. The three pieces have a very different approach—respectful, playful, and reflective.

The music throughout is wide-ranging and leaves Hershkovits free to explore not just his interest in jazz but also his extensive knowledge of classical music. “Intermezzo 4” leans more toward contemporary classical music than jazz, yet like its counterpart “Intermezzo 3,” it has other strains that frequently enter, little melodic fragments that shouldn’t fit in the improvisation but do, as if teasing the pianist and looking to tempt him in another direction.

Hershkovits sticks to his course on the “Mode Brilliante,” and the starkness of the miniature is emphasized even more as a result.

The pianist gets to stretch out a little more on the longer pieces, and “Majestic Steps Glow Far” is indeed majestic in its development. A simple melodic idea is gently nurtured by Hershkovits, who gradually expands his accompaniment with countermelodies yet never losing sight of its beginnings.

The flow of the improvised pieces is broken up by the inclusion of two compositions, firstly by Molly Drake and then by Duke Ellington. The English poet and musician’s beautiful “Dream You Dreams” is given a sublime interpretation by the pianist that reveals every little detail and nuance in the music.

Ellington’s “Single Petal of a Rose,” written as the centerpiece of Duke’s “The Queen’s Suite,” is given a similar treatment, with Hershkovits treating the maestro’s music with reverence while still being able to bring something of his own to the recital.

An album that has been on repeat since its arrival for review, this is a more than worthy addition to the ECM solo piano catalogue and will delight followers of both the jazz-related releases and New Series recordings of the imprint.