Published in Jazz Improv, V. 4, No. 2 (6/2003)

Kerry Politzer, Watercolor, Polisonic 01
Released 2002.
“Watercolor”; “Sparks”; “Early Spring Chill”; “A Foggy Day”; “Whim”; “Waiting”; “Woodpecker”; “Silent Morning”; “Waltz for Charlie”; “Identity”; “Simmer”; “Green Light”.
Personnel: Kerry Politzer, piano, voice; Dan Fabricatore, bass; Scott McLemore, drums.

Review by Virginia A. Schaefer

Kerry Politzer’s compositionally-inclined approach to piano soloing was evident when I heard her play in jam sessions in Boston clubs in the early 1990s. Then, she was a determined New England Conservatory student who’d recently switched from classical study to jazz. Now, as a New York-based pianist who’s won some songwriting awards, she demonstrates her compositional strength in this trio performance, her second recording as leader.

The title track of “Watercolor” has a subtle bossa groove propelling a dreamy, minor-mode tune. Contrasting with the aqueous impressionism of the title selection are some uptempo, spiky and tight tunes. “Sparks” is sprightly and rhythmically interesting with a left-hand countermelody. “Whim” sounds like a New Orleans march with a Monk-like core motif and some funky turns of phrase. “Identity” is a waltz with a concentrated melody with phrasing surprises.

Metric variety extends beyond the 3/4 meter of “Identity,” Waiting,” and “Waltz for Charlie.” In “Green Light,” 5/4 meter lets the pianist play a left-hand pattern that groups the measure into three and two, with a Latin feel reminiscent of Puerto Rican plena, against a syncopated melodic theme that sounds like 4/4 with an extra beat. “Silent Morning” has a bossa nova feel, but it’s in 7/4 time. Politzer’s command of Brazilian rhythms also comes through in the gentle groove of “Simmer” and the driving samba of “Woodpecker.”

Politzer’s compositions here are often catchy and sometimes bring that feeling of familiarity associated with popular songs. But many of these tunes are idiomatic to the piano, with intervals and phrasing that would challenge the amateur vocalist. The word “conversational” could describe songs such as “Sparks” and “Identity,” and the conversational quality is also evident in her improvisation. A good example is “Waiting,” where bassist Dan Fabricatore and drummer Scott McLemore participate in the conversation.

Politzer has given the one standard, George Gershwin’s “A Foggy Day,” a rather unusual arrangement. On the head she takes it slow, with the left hand alternately playing the opening motif and arpeggios, and reharmonized to suggest bitonality, while Dan Fabricatore bows the bass beautifully. The improvised chorus at a comfortable swing starts out with a Chick Corea influence, but at the end returns to the bitonal harmony of the head. In Politzer’s performance of her own compositions “Identity” and “Silent Morning,” she follows a similar, fruitful path of exploration, coalescence, and return.