|Jazz pianist Aaron Diehl|
"You guys must not be Detroit Tiger fans,” quipped jazz piano player Aaron Diehl to the small crowd before opening his second set Wednesday night at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café. The timing for Diehl's first appearance at the suburban Detroit jazz club couldn’t have been worse. It coincided with the fourth playoff game of theTigers against the New York Yankees. Diehl, a rising star in jazz came to the Dirty Dog with a championship jazz band vibe player Warren Wolf, bass player David Wong, and drummer Peter Van Nostrand—who subbed for Diehl’s regular drummer Rodney Green.
Diehl not yet a household necessity has an impressive start. In 2011, Diehl won the Cole Porter Fellow in Jazz for the American Pianists Association, and the same year Mack Avenue signed him. At Julliard, Diehl's was a big man on campus. It’s said Wynton Marsalis discovered Diehl, but famed producer Al Pryor who has produced many of Mack Avenue's chart toppers said the late jazz piano great Hank Jones discovered Diehl. At this point of his career it doesn’t matter because Diehl is his own man with two live albums to his credit “Live at The Players,” and “Live at Caramoor, and his big label debut is coming in February.
As a bandleader, the Dirty Dog Show was Diehl’s third gig in Detroit. (After the show, Diehl told me when he was a teen his uncle, a Detroiter, would take him to the Detroit Jazz Festival. So it was a big deal that in recent years, Diehl has played the festival twice.) Diehl opened the set with back to back jazz classics John Lewis’ “Django” and Bud Powell’s “Celia”. The band approached them with a stick-to-the-script mentality, which gave the impression the set was going to be an evening of pure jazz. After the band performed “Django” and “Celia,”
Diehl called three originals from his Mack Avenue debut “The Bespoke Man’s Narrative” due out the 19th of February. The band dove headfirst into “Blue Nude,” “Generation Y,” and “Stop and Go” and never came up for air. Wolf, who is built like a pro bodybuilder and who had his Mack Avenue debut last year with the self-titled thriller “Warren Wolf", put a series ass-kicking on Diehl’s originals.
Diehl played with his eyes shut as though the musical notes were written on the inside of his eyelids. The scene stealer was “Stop and Go,” which Diehl closed the set with. He played a prelude which was pure stride piano. It appeared as if the spirit of Jelly Roll Morton was in Diehl’s left hand and Scott Joplin spirit in his right. It was perplexing how Diehl played flawlessly during the set given the piano was out of tune, and two of the strings were broken.
That didn’t faze him. He played as if the piano rolled off the assembly line Wednesday morning and delivered hours before his show began. Diehl will perform again Thursday evening at the Dirty Dog. Chances are the crowd will be small again because the Tiger’s Wednesday night playoff game was rained out.