Danny Green is a virtuoso San Diego pianist who has been making strong records for several years now, (his debut album "With You In Mind" hit the shelves in 2009) but in all the years he’s been around, his latest effort "Altered Narratives" represents a breakthrough achievement on several levels.
Green has always been a monster player and his working trio with double-bassist Justin Grinnell and drummer Julien Cantelm are tighter than Mitt Romney’s jaw at a Donald Drumpf testimonial -- yet his previous recordings occasionally struck me as overly facile and less than sanguine.
From the opening strains of “Chatter From All Sides,” a slinky blues with soulful tinkling, everything seems transformed. Green manages to activate motion without being fulsome, and Grinnell’s solo also benefits from the relaxed pace which allows one to concentrate on the fine details of his gorgeous tone.
Even on the note-heavy arrangement of the Chick Corea-like “Merge,” Green allows for breathing room, which facilitates finer point appreciation, like the marvelous percussive chatter of Cantelm, who drives this band with a subtle ferocity.
With six years under their belt, Green’s trio evokes an exquisite sense of balance, deftly realized in the pensive “October Ballad,” where the pianist’s lush harmonic sense is absolutely convincing.
"Altered Narratives" is Green’s second release on the OA2 Records label, following last year’s award-winning "After The Calm," but this one is different in several respects, including location (Manhattan’s Sears Sound Studio) and the welcome addition of a string quartet featuring Antoine Silverman and Max Moston on violin, Chris Cardona on viola, and Anja Wood on cello.
You don’t hear the full group until “Second Chance,” but the rewards are immediate and palpable. Green’s keen melodic sense has always been his calling card and this tune is one of his most memorable. The strings also achieve an active integration on “Katabasis,” blending with Cantelm’s intricate ride cymbal and Green’s joyfully ebullient keys.
I was taken aback by the second-line parade feel of “Serious Fun,” driven by Cantelm’s detailed snare work which inspired exuberant solos from all, and in keeping with the theme of this record, discretion proves the better part of valor.
Serious fun indeed, from young Green and company.