Structure meets improvisation as the Mitchel Forman Trio presents Puzzle (BFM Jazz, 2015).
Forman plays piano, organ, melodica and synth. With him are bassist Kevin Axt and drummer Steve Hass.
“Passing Smile,” one of six Forman originals in the set, is a delightful, upbeat song. Forman layers the melodica with the piano, basically performing a solo/duet during several passages. It’s particularly interesting during a call and response sequence with Hass. After that, the melodica becomes the lead instrument with piano joining bass and drums underneath.
“Nostalgia in Times Square” begins as a placid, easygoing piece with drum and bass setting a slow march kind of pace. As Forman warms up, the beat shifts to something more suitable for a brisk walk From there, the trio gets into a free-spirited groove. Axt gets to stretch out with the bass. Hass licks his chops as well, during a series of brief solos, separated by phrases with the piano out front.
“Bounce” is an intense, high-speed romp. While Forman is ripping through the keys, Hass and Axt enjoy some frantic stick work and fingering. The musicians pack a lot of punch into this relatively short piece.
Over three and a half decades, Forman has performed alongside such greats as Stan Getz, Bill Evans, Pat Metheny and Wayne Shorter, among others. He’s recorded more than a dozen album as a leader and has appeared on dozens more by other artists. The trio had worked together only a few times before recording Puzzle. After one particularly satisfying gig, Forman and his companions decided to try their sound in the studio. The result is a mix of old and new, including recordings of classic songs as well as a cover of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time.”