Cellar Music CMR101422

Ray Gallon (piano); Ron Carter (bass); Lewis Nash (drums)

Recorded Van Gelder Recording Studio, Eaglewood Cliffs, New Jersey 20 May 2022

New York-based pianist Ray Gallon has been on the music scene for well over three decades, but he didn’t release his first album as leader until 2021. Make Your Move was a trio recording with David Wong on bass and Kenny Washington, offering a mix of Gallon original compositions and covers. This album follows in the same vein, with five of the nine numbers composed by Gallon (including a couple of contrafacts).

Gallon was content to be a sideman for a long time, so he isn’t as well-known as he deserves to be. Gallon’s website includes highlighted quotes from Ron Carter and Ahmad Jamal, both praising his musicianship – it doesn’t come much better than this. Gallon has had a long association with Carter, playing in the bassist’s quintets and nonets in the late 1980s (along with Lewis Nash – hence the album’s title), as well as joining Carter at various gigs and events. Gallon has also played with Art Farmer, T.S. Monk, Lionel Hampton and Dizzy Gillespie.

Ron Carter is renowned for his role in Miles Davis’s second great quintet, and he is also the most recorded jazz bassist of all time – it’s easier to list the musicians he hasn’t played with. Drummer Lewis Nash also comes with a strong cv, having released a handful of albums as a leader and played on more than 500 recordings with artists such as Sonny Rollins, Dizzy Gillespie, McCoy Tyner, George Benson and Joe Henderson. In other words: this is a jazz trio dripping in talent and experience, and the results speak for themselves.

Gallon’s jazz piano influences are wide and include Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans, Red Garland, Lennie Tristano, Horace Silver and John Lewis (who taught Gallon piano), but he also has his own voice. The opening number is a cover of Ellington’s ‘Drop Me Off At Harlem.’ Gallon says it’s one of his favourite Duke tunes, and the band’s sheer enjoyment can be heard on this buoyant rendition, which showcases the pianist’s lightness of touch, fluency and inventiveness. Listen carefully, and you’ll catch a quote from Monk’s ‘Straight No Chaser.’ ‘Acting Up’ is a Gallant composition and a contrafact of ‘Lullaby In Rhythm.’ This vibrant number sees Nash delivering a host of dramatic accents and fills, with Carter playing some 16th-note runs and Gallon unleashing some strong rhythmic playing.

Gallon notes that while Miles Davis’s ‘Nardis’ is strongly associated with Bill Evans, the inspiration for his performance came from a Hank Jones cover (which he recorded with Ron Carter and Tony Williams at the Village Vanguard in 1977). The piece is centred on Ron Carter’s bass figure, and during his solo, Gallon throws in a quote from ‘The Girl from Ipanema.’ There’s also a neat transition that leads into Nash’s lively drum solo. ‘Pins and Needles’ is a contrafact of ‘Cry Me A River,’ but rhythmically, it’s light years away from the classic ballad, being played at a brisk tempo. Bass and drums lock together to create a driving beat, with Gallon’s piano circling around it all. It’s another slick band performance.

Tracks such as the ballad ‘Zombette’ and the 1928 song ‘If I Had You,’ show how the band can also play slower material with aplomb. On the latter tune, Gallon throws in yet another Monk quote, this time, ‘Round Midnight.’ ‘Monkey Bars’ is aptly titled, as its shifting time signatures (which alternate between Latin jazz and jazz-waltz) require some agile playing by the entire trio. The album closes with the 1938 jazz standard ‘Old Folks,’ which has been covered by artists such as Charlie Parker, Wes Montgomery and Keith Jarrett (who played it with his Standards trio, featuring Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette). On this version, it’s played with a gentle bossa nova beat, and Carter provides another elegant solo, with Gallon and Nash comping sensitively behind him. Gallon concludes the tune with an extensive – and inventive – solo that includes the odd Keith Jarret-like vocalisation buried deep in the mix, and some exquisite flourishes, played on the high keys, at around the 7-minute mark. Carter, whose bass playing throughout the album has provided ballast, melodic underpinning and captivating solo spots, plays a short, beefy riff, and brings the tune to its conclusion.

This album has it all: musicians of the highest calibre, good tunes, and superb playing, all of which has been excellently recorded and mixed. An album that will give many jazz fans ears a treat.