True voices

By JON GARELICK  |  January 12, 2009

One simple explanation for the expansive grooves is in the interplay between Gardony and bassist John Lockwood: on just about every tune, they play unison bass lines, Lockwood extending the patterns in the pianist's left hand and giving them extra heft, Yoron Israel's drums adding another bump. The nine pieces (which include a reconfigured "Summertime") also ride on waves of rolling gospel piano figures. (The trio will be playing at Amazing Things Arts Center in Framingham this Friday.)

When I get Gardony on the phone at home, he explains that the pieces on Dig Deep emerged during his family's annual vacation in Maine's Acadia National Forest. He brought an electric keyboard and spent hours a day improvising. "I was trying to never let myself just play the piano but always play music that I felt in that moment, from someplace very deep." He recorded everything and wrote the tunes based on those improvisations. He continued to play and write that summer and into the fall, then went into the studio in January 2008 with Lockwood and Israel.

He was looking for "anthems," something to alleviate "the toxicity of recent years." So the music was a response in a sense to the Bush era. "When something is jaded or crooked for so long, after a while it becomes the right way to think." A child of the Eastern Bloc, Gardony was familiar with the feeling. "It's not like the first time I experienced that, but I'm very sensitive to it."

Part of what's fascinating about the album is the way its surface simplicity — the sharp melodies and rolling grooves — contains that complexity. Odd meters abound, as do harmonic shifts. After three albums and seven years working with Lockwood and Israel, Gardony felt confident enough to pull off an album of this kind, even to the point of pushing Israel into the unfamiliar rock beats of "Heavy." His genius is in making complex ideas simple — another kind of liberation.

BECCA STEVENS BAND | Lily Pad, 1353 Cambridge St, Cambridge | January 16 at 7 pm | $10 | 617.395.1393 | AS220, 95 Mathewson St, Providence | January 17 at 9 pm | $6 | | Loft at Tommy Doyle's, 96 Winthrop St, Cambridge | January 18 at 9 pm | free | 617.864.0655 | LASZLO GARDONY TRIO + ARMEN DONELIAN TRIO | Amazing Things Arts Center, 160 Hollis St [Rte 126], Framingham | January 16 at 8 pm | $18 | 508.405.ARTS

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