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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf


BILLY LESTER

Storytime

JUJIKAAN JKA001

 

 

Prologue

Lullaby

Lightning Man

Under the Stars

Ode to Bud Powell

Dark Streets

Bonanza

Another Dream

Color Red

Sal Mosca

Encore


Billy Lester (piano)

 

Recorded October 2010 to August 2011

This is assuredly a Lesterian project. The music is by Billy Lester, the artwork is by Julia Eisen Lester, and the liner notes by James Lester. The engineer is not affiliated to the Lester family, so far as I know.

Storytime is a kind of suite, opening with a Prologue and closing with a scripted Encore. It enshrines Billy Lester's musical direction in ways that reflect his interest in active dissonances, the occasional bluesy vamp and hints of polished Boogie. The milieu is nevertheless Bop, as the Ode to Bud Powell should suggest and as the tribute to Lester's erstwhile teacher Sal Mosca reinforces. Sometimes he will slip in a quotation, and I detect a Rhapsody in Blue allusion in Under The Stars. But he is not an easy customer, with his busy and dissonant fuelled playing precluding any easy sense of swing, in a late-Tristano sort of way. Things are better judged on Dark Streets where the rolling Bop lines are well judged. There's quite a deal of sound and fury on the disc, not least on Bonanza but the obsessively repeated chordal playing and ruminative mid tempo playing sounds stuck, rather than active.

Another Dream reprises the feeling; a promising start with lighter textual elements soon becomes bogged down. The theme itself is not strong enough, something of a constant feature of the album as a whole. I wish Lester had leavened these originals with standards. Literate and articulate though he clearly is - and he has made some good albums - he comes across here as rather dogged and unyielding.

Jonathan Woolf



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