Published in Jazz Improv, V. 4, No. 3 (12/2003)

Roberta Piket & Alternating Current, I’m Back in Therapy and It’s All Your Fault, Thirteenth Note Records
Released 2002. Recorded January 2002, Brooklyn, New York.
"Conclusive Evidence"; "Unfair Competition"; "I’m Back in Therapy and It’s All Your Fault"; "A Scene of One"; "Mixed Signals"; "Fatherless Figure"; "Just a Blues"; "Somethin’ Easy"; "Speak, Memory"; "Bad Mistake"; "Blue Slipper Frogs".
Personnel: Roberta Piket, Wurlitzer electric piano (with effects); Bruce Arnold, electric guitar; Cliff Schmitt, electric bass; Kirk Driscoll, drums.

Review by Virginia A. Schaefer

Those familiar with Roberta Piket’s previous work may wonder about this release: is she serious? The pop-psychology title of I’m Back in Therapy and It’s All Your Fault and its tracks’ titles, as well as the cover photo of Piket striking a mock-confrontational pose on a playground, represent music that’s energetic, challenging, irreverent – and definitely serious. Roberta Piket is a New York-based performer, composer, and educator who’s known for playing contemporary mainstream jazz on acoustic piano. On her previous recordings, she led trios and quartets that played standards and her own works. On this recording, she presents material she’s created using a different kind of jazz, one influenced by rock.

Piket plays a Wurlitzer electric piano, a vintage instrument she chose for its analog qualities. Her co-players, the trio Alternating Current, include guitarist Bruce Arnold, who solos expressively, usually using a distorted, rock sound. Bassist Cliff Schmitt plays in a solid and straightforward manner, as does drummer Kirk Driscoll. The opening track, "Conclusive Evidence", is a lighthearted introduction to the group’s sound. Both guitar and piano plays the bouncy, modal jazz-style tune, over two chords a half-tone apart, that grows from a repeated descending whole tone pattern that sounds like "uh-oh". When Piket improvises on it using the wa-wa effect, she evokes childlike teasing.

"Unfair Competition" starts with an ominous bass pattern and drums, and the guitar announces a simple, high-pitched theme in an ethereal voice. While the keyboard plays squawky, dissonant, chords, like agitated complaints or arguments, the guitar rings faintly above it, lofty and unmoved. "I’m Back in Therapy and It’s All Your Fault" expresses a similar program with more levity. The title track starts with repeated, long, jumpy bass pattern and flighty, bouncy piano chords. Piket plays the head, which like "Conclusive Evidence", has a central two-note motif, ascending scale tones. The piano and guitar trade fours in a conversation or argument that rises in pitch and volume. Then, the exasperated-sounding piano and guitar play the theme in unison, and the guitar plays loud ascending chords while the piano solos. The piano and guitar close by finally, furiously tossing off the theme together.

Sometimes the sounds of the piano and the guitar merge, giving the effect of a single, electric super-instrument. The tightly constructed "Mixed Signals" starts with Piket playing repeated "signal" rhythmic motif on chords with a wa-wa effect that blends with another signal-sound on the guitar with a spacy effect. The signals metamorphose, getting louder and more insistent. Arnold plays a solo that seems to switch between major and minor scales. Toward the end, a heavy beat develops, with drums thumping on every beat and throbbing of the keyboard and guitar power chords, and it speeds up and then subsides before the outchorus.

Several selections have complex and shifting meters, rhythms, and phrasing, which the group’s cohesion and precision let them handle with aplomb. Most of "Just a Blues" is in 6/8 time with the bass and drums dividing measures into three groups of two beats, while the piano and guitar play two groups of three but occasionally switch to the other grouping. Later, everyone smoothly changes the meter to 4/4 and back to 6/8. On "Blue Slipper Frogs", a 24-measure AAB blues, the group smoothly creates the shifting rhythmic accents that defy the 4/4 meter on the A parts.

On the quiet and melodic numbers, Piket uses the Wurlitzer in a more traditionally pianistic manner. On "Bad Mistake", a 3/4-time melody in a 32-bar song form, the delicate and chiming sound of the electric piano is unmistakable. "Fatherless Figure" is a lovely, yearning ballad in an 32-bar form with shifting tonal centers and scales. Piket opens with the melody on keyboard, and then she and plays the melody together with Arnold, who uses a straight guitar sound. After individual solo choruses, they again play the theme together, now in harmony that moves from parallel thirds to ninths to sixths and also to more dissonant intervals.