Sunday, January 29, 2023


Pianist Aaron Diehl

Listening to the jazz pianist Aaron Diehl's performance Friday evening at Rackham Auditorium in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I couldn't help marveling over how damn immaculate and erudite his playing is. Diehl performed a spotless hour-plus concert with his trio, transitioning seamlessly from music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Chick Corea, and Bud Powell. I felt like I was gifted two arresting performances for the admission of one, with Diehl immediately establishing there were similarities in the great musician's reach and virtuosity Diehl performed Bach's work solo and the jazz compositions with bassist David Wong and drummer Aaron Kimmel. Kimmel is one of the more clever and tasteful trio drummers I've heard, and Wong has the science of walking the upright bass down pat. Diehl has a pristine household reputation, having won the prestigious American Pianist Association 2011 Cole Porter Fellowship, toured internationally with the Grammy-winning vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant, and released three touted albums for Mack Avenue Records. Diehl opened Friday's concert with Bach's "Prelude and Fugue in C Major, slid into Miles Davis's "Deception," revisited  "Prelude and Fugue" but this time served it at room temperature in c minor, and then sprung into Dizzy Gillespie's "Bebop." Balancing the genres could've been disastrous in the hands of a less skilled jazz pianist and a less adept jazz trio. But Diehl pulled it off. He told the near-capacity audience the impetus to pair Bach and Bop struck him during the pandemic lockdown. He's test-driven the project in several cities recently. As the concert wore on, his interpretation of music became more captivating. After the intermission, the trio tore Chick Corea's "Tones for Joan's Bones" open like a birthday gift. On Bud Powell's "Tempus Fugue-It," Diehl's fingers raced up and down the keys as if Powell's ghost possessed them. The audience gifted Diehl, Wong, and Kimmel with an ovation that lasted longer than I've ever witnessed at a University Musical Society jazz concert. Had the trio not obliged the audience with an encore,  there was a high probability the audience wouldn't have let the musicians leave Rackham in one piece.

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