CD REVIEW NOW THEN
by Terrell Holmes (THE NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD, March 2011 issue)
Pianist and composer Claude Diallo displays a striking array of talents on his new release, Now Then. His trio, the Situation, plays with a refreshing cohesiveness and dynamism and Diallo leads the way with his robust technique, cleverness and palpable sense of joy.
Accompanied by the pleasant grousing of Laurent Salzard’s electric bass and the steady timekeeping of drummer Massimo Buonanno, Diallo shows that he’s a master of embroidery, imaginatively balancing coy and dynamic single notes, sustained trills, gospel-inflected and dramatic block chords, cascading flourishes, playful splinters of atonality and barrelhouse rumbles at the deep end of the keyboard. Diallo can be as playful as a sprite and his lively interpre- tations of «I Feel Good Today», «Glad That I’ve Found You», «Dee Song» and «La Danse des Colibris» give the piano the character of a singing group, with each member soloing in a distinct voice.
Another element of Diallo’s splendor is the balance of strength and tenderness he brings to ballads like the soft waltz «Broken Wing» and «Une Larme Pour», his touching solo tribute to teacher and co-composer Charlie Bana- cos. The pianist steps aside for «On the Way to Valencia», a vibrant flamenco bassdrums duet composed by Salzard. Buonanno’s abundant percussion is a hand-in-glove complement to Salzard’s fiery riffs, which land in the center of Andalucía at the intersection of Pastorius and Segovia.
The arresting and ambitious «Water Against Fire» is a surprising tour de force. This song, which has the character of a suite and is spiked with electronic effects, works around a series of spiraling figures that branch off into luminous solos encompassing Diallo’s urgency, Buonanno’s frenetic drumming and the affecting melancholy of Salzard’s bass.
Perhaps the Situation is at its best, though, on a live version of Dizzy Gillespie’s «Birks’ Works». The band really stretches out, playing with its greatest fluidity and opulence and the keys jump to life beneath Diallo’s deft fingers as he hammers out bodacious blues chords. Everything the band has shown on the disc is synthesized on this cut and it ends Now Then with an impressive flourish.