Truly Rare Debut


New Piano Expressions: Debut Rarities Vol. 5 is genuinely rare: One of a handful of recordings by the Debut label still available; the only recordings as a leader by pianist John Dennis; and perhaps the only piano trio set to feature the label's co-owners -- in this case, drummer Max Roach and bassist Charles Mingus -- as sidemen. (Dennis was a member of Mingus' Jazz Workshop.)

Mingus places his notes in "Ensenada" and "Machajo" to perfectly propel their subtle Latin rhythms and melodies, and Roach's instrumental discussions with the piano through both takes of "All the Things You Are" sound just as inspired. Dennis also sounds brilliant, and not only from the company he keeps. His energetic and bright playing in "All the Things" suggests the sound and vision of Art Tatum -- they soar with the feeling that Dennis can play anything he can imagine, and he can imagine almost anything.

Dennis concludes Expressions with four solo piano pieces, including a gorgeous and pristine "Someone to Watch Over Me" and the spontaneous improvisation "Variegations," which sometimes paints a portrait of Tatum in shades of Bill Evans.

Rarities Volumes 1-4 feature various incarnations of Mingus ensembles. Other Debut music you can hear includes The Debut Recordings (Prestige, 1990) by Four Trombones (Willie Dennis, Bennie Green, Kai Winding and J.J. Johnson) and The Debut Records Story (1996).