A TOP RECORDING OF 2015. If you dig piano jazz that swings and purrs, Aaron Diehl liberally dishes out both on his second recording, Space Time Continuum. It’s also one of the best albums you’ll hear this year.
The opener, Walter Davis’ “Uranus,” is a sleek, finger-snapping trio number, highlighting Diehl’s smooth, elegant soloing, with bassist David Wong and drummer Quincy Davis providing added panache. Disciplined by tradition, he’s a master stylist, frequently evoking Duke Ellington and John Lewis while planting his own definitive flag. At 29, Diehl is one of the more memorable composers on the scene and his original tunes are certainly confident, incorporating beguiling melodies and absorbing rhythms that get under your skin.
Diehl’s first record conjured sonic touchstones from the 50s and 60s, specifically elements of the MJQ. Space Time brings together horn masters (Benny Golson, Joe Temperley) and younger lions (trumpeter Bruce Harris and tenor sax player Stephen Riley) to usher Diehl’s bold vision into the future. It’s a record that’s hard to stop listening to with tracks that compete for your attention (“Santa Maria” sports a clever jazz/classical mash-up, and each of the five horn numbers are supreme), but save some extra love for singer Charenee Wade and Diehl’s trio on the title tune – her delectable voice, his sharp licks and those creamy horns should help escort this album onto many of the year’s “best of” lists. (8 tracks; 55 minutes)