Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Review: Julian Waterfall Pollack's Infinite Playground

Video EPK for Infinite Playground

Julian Waterfall Pollack ruined everything.

I'd already engraved Brad Mehldau's Highway Rider into the top spot on my Best Albums of 2010 list when I heard Pollack's new Infinite Playground. The excellent project challenges my assumptions. Either Pollack shares Mehldau's gift of pointing toward new directions in jazz, or Mehldau isn't as significant as I'd previously believed.

Pollack and Mehldau, of course, aren't the only innovative young pianists. Jean-Michael Pilc, Eldar, Robert Glasper and Brian Haas of the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey also employ elastic rhythms and favor aggressive drumming while making standards sound brand new. The late Esbjörn Svensson was similarly innovative.

As the winner of the label lottery, Mehldau collaborates with the likes of Joshua Redman and Jon Brion. Pollack may lack Mehldau's resources, but he compensates with limitless imagination. He turns the Beatles "And I Love Her" inside out, punctuates "Summertime" with electronic colors and fuses classical music with jazz on the modernist "Death of Hamlet."

Traditionalists also have points of entry to Infinite Playground. "Cherokee," for instance, is played straight. Elsewhere, fans of McCoy Tyner and Chick Corea will find plenty to like. Additional insights into Pollack can be gleaned from my 2007 interview with the pianist.

I'm not prepared to proclaim that Pollack is Mehldau's artistic equal. For one thing, Pollack is just 22. I do know, however, that the relatively unheralded Pollack deserves wider recognition. There's room for everyone on Pollack's Infinite Playground.

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punkyjunk said...

where can one listen to the album?

JulianPollackMusic.com said...

you can listen to 3 of the tracks on www.julianpollackmusic.com. Clips of the entire album are available in the "store" section of the website.