June  2002

Gerard D'Angelo - Not What My Hands Have Done
Mapleshade Records CD 08432
Released: 2001

by John Crossett

Musical Performance *****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment *****

[Reviewed on CD]I enjoy using my audio system to travel back in time, letting it take me to recording venues long gone. And I love to listen to jazz’s past masters play. But I prefer mating today’s topnotch sonics to the talent that I’m listening to -- which is why I was delighted with Gerard D’Angelo’s new CD, Not What My Hands Have Done, from Mapleshade Records.

From the opening notes of "Who’s Kidding Who," the echoes of the classic Bill Evans Trio carried me back in time. However, the sound kept me planted firmly here and now. Not What My Hands Have Done contains jazz-piano-trio interplay of a sort not heard in this neck of the woods in many a long year. You won’t hear any showy displays of pianistic virtuosity, none of the "hey, look at me" mentality that is so often used to mask the lack of originality shared by so many of today’s young lions. With D’Angelo on piano -- and his cohorts Jeff Hirschfield on bass and Jay Anderson on drums (who comprise one of this era's better rhythm sections) -- the trio displays an understated cohesiveness that has been absent since the glory days of Evans/LaFaro/Motian.

But these guys are not just another audiophile copy band. D’Angelo, Hirschfield and Anderson use their knowledge of the Evans trio as a trailhead from which they explore the surrounding musical countryside. They display an abundance of influences herein, as evidenced by the diverse piano styles encoded here -- such as "Heavy Blue," which conjures up visions of McCoy Tyner. "Forlane" summons the spirits of Blue Note-period Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea. And it’s not just D’Angelo. Hirschfield covers the stylistic terrain all the way from Scott LaFaro to Paul Chambers, while Anderson swings effortlessly from Art Blakey to Elvin Jones and Paul Motion.

While you’re listening to this cavalcade of styles, you just might notice how easy it is to hear all the nuances of each practitioner. That’s because of Pierre Spey's quality recording job. He manages to lay out before you on a wide, deep soundstage all three of these musicians playing together in real space, without an isolation booth in sight. There is truthfulness to the timbres of the piano, bass and drums that makes believing they are real that much easier. Musically and sonically, this disc is a pure, unadulterated joy.

So, for just the nominal cost of this CD, you’re taken on a journey back into the musical past, but with exceptional sonics that will keep your ears planted firmly in the present. Not What My Hands Have Done is a wonderful recording, possibly the record of the year. I can’t praise it highly enough.