Saturday, November 5, 2011


Jazz pianist Hal Galper
Hal, I didn’t know what to expect from your show at the Virgil Carr Center Friday night, which opened the first annual Paradise Valley Fall Jazz Festival. My friend, jazz critic Mark Stryker of the Detroit Free Press gushed about your unorthodox style in his weekly column. Another friend who publishes the weekly jazz e-newsletter the Usual Suspects raved about you also, and encouraged his subscribers to attend your show and bring some extra cash to buy your CD’s.

Yesterday evening was the first time I heard your music. Thursday, I did a google search, and I watched some videos of you explaining your style of jazz. I learn you’ve performed with some big name jazz musicians Chet Baker, Phil Woods, and Stan Getz to name three. And you’re heavily into Rubato, which as I understand is stretching the beat and modifying the rhythmic structure of a composition.

On one video, you demonstrated how you reshape standards. That’s what impressed me about your concert last night. Your trio drummer John Bishop and bass player Jeff Johnson played well-known standards “Embraceable You,” Alice in Wonderland,” “Four” and “ I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry”.

I’ve heard those standards a million times, but never like your trio worked them. On each song, you put the melody in the passenger seat, and let the harmony drive the tunes. It was intriguing how you stretched and stretched a song as far it could go before it snapped. 

It was great when you allowed the crowd to ask questions about the music, which proved you genuinely wanted them to understand and be consumed with your music.

The turnout was small. I counted 30 people. That was cool because it gave the concert a more intimate feel. Bishop and Johnson were on fire. I chatted with Johnson after the first set. I asked Johnson how it felts playing with a leader as unorthodox as you.

Johnson likened it to water skiing behind a powerful boat. Any musician brave enough to play with you must possess monster chops because your music demands they ad-lib over song forms and play counter-lines. The concert had many high points. 

My favorite was your duet with Johnson on “I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry”. It was originally written as a sad ballad, but you and Johnson made it zesty.

Hal, your concert christened the Paradise Valley Jazz Series, which is put on my the Jazz Network and Serengeti Production. Mulgrew Miller, Marion Hayden, Karriem Riggins, Mike Jellick,  and Barry Harris are also playing the fest. You set the bar high for them.

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