Dreambox Media



"Blues Liberations" (EAR-1049)

CD covers

Dynamic pianist extraordinaire Jim Ridl's first solo recording was "Blues Liberations," nineteen improvisations inspired by his virtuosic takes on various aspects of the blues. "The Jim Ridl Trio LIVE" captured the additional power of bassist Steve Varner and drummer Jim Miller in concert, performing music "in a continual state of becoming," and is now back in print. Jim Ridl's "Door In a Field" features eight compositions augmented with a string trio, plus an arrangement of the traditional Czech folk song "Green Meadow Waltz." His latest, "Your Cheatin' Heart..." combines three outstanding originals with a new take on "Caravan" and two rather unusual "other works," and "is no less than a small jazz masterpiece."
(-All About Jazz.com)

CD cover artFeaturing saxophonist Ron Kerber and vocalist J.D. Walter, with Steve Varner on bass and drummer Jim Miller, plus special guest Jef Lee Johnson on mandolin and guitar:
"Your Cheatin' Heart" / "Grazed by Light (solo prelude)" / "Grazed by Light" / "Tennessee Waltz" / "Caravan" / "Antiphon (tri vulti pacis)" / "'Smile,' Said the Drum (for Elvin)"

What the critics say:

"Your Cheatin' Heart is a collection of seven tunes from pianist Jim Ridl, in a variety of settings from trio to sextet. Four of the seven tracks are Ridl originals.
The album begins with a trio rendition of Hank Williams; 'My Cheatin' Heart,' with Ridl's playing transforming the tune into soulful, blues-inflected jazz. This is the only trio piece on the album, but with Miller's solid rhythm, Ridl and Varner shine throughout, fully realizing the possibilities of a trio instrumentation.
'Grazed By Light' augments the trio with JD Walter's singing and Ron Kerber's saxophone. The tune is introduced with a lovely solo piano statement, which gives way to the restatement of the melody by Kerber and Walter in unison. Varner provides a captivating bass line, over which the soloists extemporize in breathtaking fashion. This track is beautifully performed, as well as being the album's best example of Ridl's compositional skills.
Jef Lee Johnson appears twice, playing mandolin on the classic 'Tennessee Waltz' and guitar on Juan Tizol's 'Caravan.' The mandolin adds a remarkable dimension to the former, perfectly complimenting the sounds of the bass glissandi and Walter's vocalizations. 'Caravan' is chaotic yet satisfying, a tear through an old tune highlighted by Johnson's solos and riffing, and Ridl's adept staccato playing.
With the unexpected folk tunes, variety of instrumentation, and sheer prowess of the performers, Your Cheatin' Heart is a pleasure to hear. The production quality is great, emphasizing the distinct, yet beautifully blended timbres of the traditional jazz instruments with the mandolin, overdrive-laden guitar, and Walter's smooth and subtle scat singing."
- All About Jazz

"Jim Ridl...deserves to be better known. Not only is he a personal, forceful pianist, heís also a first-rate composer and arranger who knows how to put together a band and how to make thoroughly engaging albums like this one. Country songs like Hank Williamsí title opus and 'Tennessee Waltz' are not the usual fare of jazz musicians...In trio with bassist Steve Varner and drummer Jim Miller, Ridl digs into 'Your Cheatiní Heart' as if moving the geography from Williamsí Alabama to the Mississippi shores of Memphis.
With the rest of his quintet--and guest Jef Lee Johnson on mandolin--Ridl creates an ethereal version of 'Tennessee Waltz,' Varner plucking the melody as a high wordless voice and the saxophone harmonizing with the trilling mandolin. Itís a truly haunting, singular version of the song.
The albumís other standard is the Ellingtonian 'Caravan,' given a most original reading, beginning with free rubato intros and featuring a long, architectonic solo by Ridl as its centerpiece: it begins a cappella with disjointed, Monkish kernels coalescing into riffs and evolving into long, flowing, two-handed lines. Ridlís three originals include the two-part 'Grazed by Light,' with a lyric piano prelude, then a quintet version of the attractive melody, with sax and voice again forming a luminous ensemble sound.
'Antiphon (tri vulti pacis)' is a stately piece (originally written for the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop big band) giving piano, voice and sax each a turn at the processional melody. 'Smile, Said the Drum' has, according to Ridl, 'a certain Coltrane thing' and is dedicated to the memory of Elvin Jones. It has the requisite hard drive from Miller, with swinging solos from Ridl and Kerber; donít miss Ridlís sparkling comp figures behind the sax, exemplifying another reason heís so good."
- All About Jazz (NY)

"Here is classic piano-based jazz done very well...you can toss it in and hit almost any track and come up with a winner.
It is soothing, refreshing, uplifting music that makes you feel so good you don't even pay attention to how good it is technically. But closer inspection does reveal playing excellence throughout. The wonderful grooves are probably attributable to the fact that the overall talent here is a cut above...
Ridl is a superb pianist who shows his chops on his own compositions (all but three of the seven tracks)...
After the album opens with a bouncy trio interpretation of Hank Williams' 'Your Cheating Heart,' Ridl's own 'Grazed by Light' shows deft touches of both classical and jazz forms. In fact, Ridl has split this into two tracks: a brief two-minute prelude that is more classical, and the longer group piece that leaps off Ridl's keyboard into Ron Kerber's smooth soprano sax. It takes so many twists and turns, as many of the tracks do, that it does seem like a deliberate attempt at symphonic structure. But you don't need to be a music student to appreciate the work. This group never forgets that music is to be enjoyed, first and foremost--a rather fresh quality that contrasts with the self-conscious works of some other classically-trained jazzos. The remaining tracks have the same quality (hint: don't expect 'Tennessee Waltz' to sound like 'Tennessee Waltz').
The album has no vocals per se, but Ridl employs human voice as an instrument, through the fast and versatile tongue of J. D. Walter. His voicings are not what one would think of as traditional scat; they seem more like modern Brazilian bop, to the point that some of it may be actual Portuguese. (Amid the echo and effects, it is hard to tell).
Providing a solid foundation for all of it are drummer Jim Miller, bassist Steve Varner, and Jef Lee Johnson on guitar and mandolin.
It is true that improvisation is the soul of jazz (and certainly many of the riffs here were probably inspired in the playing). But this album is also great evidence that well-written and thoughtfully produced tracks can get that same inspirational feel. That feel also comes from careful layering and interweaving of parts, and that is very well done here. Not a note is wasted. Like an impressionistic painting that requires you to stand back from the brushstrokes to see the true image, this music is simply beautiful. It does not need to be anything more."
- Jazz Review.com

"Seemingly unfettered by technical limitations, Ridl can move from an evocative sonic telling of a scene from his North Dakota childhood to a ferocious romp in an unconventional meter that would daunt all but the most adventurous of Jazz pianists.
On 'Your Cheatin' Heart,' as the title suggests, Ridl controls his digital ferocity so that he can elucidate songs of simplicity and beauty with tweakings of harmonization and meter or improvisational delights of minimalism. Like singers who honor the song, Ridl's group intends to investigate the feelings such tunes arouse rather than using them as a departure point for abstraction. The same approach occurs again on 'Tennessee Waltz'...he understands the reticent depths of feeling implied by the song's images, many of which bassist Steve Varner depicts through his own solo.
On the other hand, Ridl covers 'Caravan' too, contrasting the sweetness of country/western songs with hints of virtuosic wildness that characterized some of his earlier recordings. Serendipity prevailed when guitarist Jef Lee Johnson, joining the group at the last minute due to adjacent recording sessions, adds Middle Eastern flavor to the performance. As a result, Johnson's unplanned presence changed the flavor of the track, as did his mandolin playing on 'Tennessee Waltz.'
Also contributing to the overall atmospheric sound of the group are soprano saxophonist Ron Kerber and JD Walter, whose singing remains oddly and slightly distorted in the mix as he suggests a ghostly presence when he scats. In fact, Walter sings nary a word throughout the entire CD.
Drummer Jim Miller propels the music with a subtle push and often muted colors, rising above the melodic instruments to make the final statements thoughtfully respectful on 'Smile, Said the Drum,' the group's affectionate tribute to Elvin Jones.
Consisting of an exquisitely arranged mixture of standards and originals, 'Your Cheatin' Heart' possesses an unpretentious honesty consistent with who Ridl is."
- Cadence

"Very few jazz pianist/composers were raised on ranches in North Dakota. Jim Ridl's origins on the windswept plains may explain why he is able to perceive jazz potential in unlikely rural sources. There are three covers here, two of them unexpected, and they provide the strongest moments on this well-recorded album.
Ridl is a forcefully articulate pianist, and his 11-minute version of 'Your Cheatin' Heart' is probably the most in-depth and persuasive jazz investigation of this song on record. Not many jazz musicians have heard what Ridl hears in 'Tennessee Waltz' -- Carried by the bass of Steve Varner, it is poignant, graceful and hip. 'Caravan' is a much more conventional choice, but Ridl's take is fresh and caterwauling and free."
- JazzTimes

"'Your Cheatin' Heart...' includes a jazzified take of the Hank Williams title cut, an intriguing interpretation of 'Tennessee Waltz' and an extraordinary rendering of 'Caravan,' with a few Ridl originals and harmonic scatting by singer J.D. Walter.
Ridl issues an unusual brightness from the piano, which makes even his more complex tunes easy to digest.
Aside from Walter, other familiar names in Ridl's quintet include Ron Kerber on sax, Jef Lee Johnson on guitar and Jim Miller on drums.
Miller, Walter and bassist Steve Varner really shine on 'Your Cheatin' Heart.' Miller's all over his drums. And Walter's scatting adds another dimension to songs such as Ridl's 'Grazed by Light.'"
- Philadelphia Daily News

"...Ridl's CD, Your Cheatin' Heart, offers the trio's superb, relaxed interpretation of the classic Hank Williams ballad. 'Caravan' ('always an intriguing journey,' says Ridl) is the longest track and features three guests: A scatting vocalist (definitely an acquired taste), soprano sax and guitar."
- Chico News & Review

"In addition to being a highly skilled and accomplished jazz pianist, Jim Ridl is a creative and resourceful musician, composer, and arranger who draws on a rich legacy of musical and personal resources to develop a wide range of musical ideas and concepts unified by his deep grasp of the blues and its endless potential to be reborn in new forms. Each of his recordings has a particular theme, mood, and content in which the separate tracks flow into one another in a way which offers a sense of movements of a single composition rather than a disjointed compilation of 'tunes.'
On 'Your Cheatin' Heart,' the inspiration is country music. The centerpieces are the Hank Williams classic...and the ever popular 'Tennessee Waltz'...In a lark of inspiration, Ridl plays short motifs on a kid's toy piano that he picked up at an antique shop. The sound of this little instrument seems to suggest the universal childlike innocence and vulnerability in all of us.
Against this melancholy backdrop, the breaking in of both strong melodic lines and hard bop and mainstream jazz comes as great relief and creates an aura of 'resurrection' and joy...
...the album is rich with musical ideas that require deep, reflective listening to appreciate...
Regarding 'Grazed by Light: Solo Prelude,' the second half of the title connects it to the next track and also suggests the way in which the whole album is a composition, with each track a 'movement.' Ridl, a master at exploring a mood and a sensibility, does some meditative, contemplative piano work a la Keith Jarrett's Koln Concert. With the followup 'Grazed by Light: Group,' the rhythm picks up. Ron Kerber takes up the theme on soprano sax in a relaxed way. Then J.D. Walter comes in, letting us know immediately that his voice is a collaborative instrument. He also does a few bars of interesting unison with Kerber. And we notice how well Ridl uses comping to generate ideas and stimulation for the others. (It's rare to want to listen carefully to piano comping, but I recommend it with this album.) Walter solos sotto voce, gradually increasing the loudness and intensity. The intensity slowly builds, and the rhythmic changes become more complex.
In 'Tennessee Waltz,' featuring Jeff Lee Johnson on mandolin, the melody is stated, interestingly and unusually, by the bass fiddle, which generates a melancholy sonority in keeping with the sad ending of the lyrics. Then bass, mandolin, sax, and voice come together in a kind of chorale. Following the chorus, we hear Ridl now on 'Happyland baby piano' with single notes that echo in the mind like bells tolling for the lonely man whose lover danced away with another.
One wonders how a jazz standard like 'Caravan' could come into play in such a context. It commences with eerie overtones by Walter with Kerber's sax, and then the rhythm picks up into the classically exotic bebop version suggesting 'Arabian Nights.' Walter is very much at home in the bop mode...
Ridl comes in with halting rhythms and Bartok-like counterpoint. He employs some hypermodern non-syncopated soloing here...Ridl's inventiveness becomes more and more apparent, as the ensemble returns to the theme. This cut is about sound and rhythm more than about melody...
...the point being that there are subtleties of musical ideas and meanings here that link diverse kinds of music into an interwoven tapestry.
Thus, this CD, which is no less than a small jazz masterpiece, can be enjoyed for background listening and also has depth and detail that will interest the serious aficionado and/or musician."
- All About Jazz.com

"Pianist Jim Ridl is an artful player...
The session here is generally a pretty affair. The vibe ranges from modernist madness to elegiac beauty. The group's 'Caravan' runs that gamut...
...Ridl's rich-sounding group can convey passion without chaos. The title track features his winsome style backed by drummer Jim Miller and bassist Steve Varner. His 'Grazed By Light" captures his yen for unvarnished melody, rendered by soprano saxophonist Ron Kerber."
- Philadelphia Inquirer

JIM RIDL's "Door In a Field" (DMJ-1065)

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With Darryl Hall on bass and drummer Mark Walker, plus Diane Monroe (violin), Kathy Ridl (viola and accordion) and Jeffrey Solow (cello):
"Sun On My Hands" / "Sweet Clover" / "Caragana" / "Six Hours Later" / "Door In a Field" / "Tenetree" / "Discin'" / "30 Foot Ceiling" / "Green Meadow Waltz"

What the critics say:

"Working in a trio format with bassist Daryl Hall and drummer Mark Walker, and aided by a string trio on several tracks, Ridl has composed and performed a heartfelt tribute to his parents, who raised him and his siblings on a North Dakota farm...Jim deliver(s) real jazz that manages to evoke the unadorned majesty of the prairie with subtlety and grace. The strings are sparingly employed in a classic manner, adding harmonic depth without ever sounding syrupy.
Ridl's style is melodic and cleanly delineated, with occasional excursions into rhythmic vamps and metric quirks to keep things interesting. 'Sun On My Hands,' the lead-off track, is a lovely ballad with some enigmatic melodic turns. Hall introduces the infectiously bouncy melody of 'Sweet Clover,' which is then picked up and developed with aplomb by Ridl. Walker's funky backbeat drives Ridl's percolating piano along on the groovy 'Six Hours Later,' which is followed by the desolately beautiful title track in a stately 6. 'Discin'' evokes the tractor's ever decreasing circles as the farmer harrows a field. A propulsive 10-beat phrase powers 'Thirty Foot Ceiling,' inspiring Ridl's best solo work; he's really cookin' here. An arrangement of the Czech folk song 'Green Meadow Waltz' provides the album with a poignant, but good-humored conclusion.
Door In A Field was clearly a labor of love for Ridl, and his collaborators seem to have understood his vision. Together, the musicians have made a gorgeous album of great emotional and musical power. Concept or no, it is a special achievement."
- All About Jazz (NY)

"...It's an elegant and elegiac outing with some pleasant and poignant moments.
Ridl uses a string trio, folds in some accordion, and even covers a Czech folk song, 'Green Meadow Waltz,' to make an unusually folksy blend for his core trio. The North Dakota native has a knack for introducing listeners to his prairie roots.
...Darryl Hall, a past winner of the Thelonious Monk International Bass Competition, establishes a solid bottom for Ridl's big-sky flights of fancy." - Philadelphia Inquirer

"Jim Ridl has become one of the bright lights of the current generation of Philadelphia jazz musicians...Ridlís previous recordings have exhibited extraordinary technical ability, even when he appears as a sideman on other musiciansí projects, and he remains focused on a well defined aesthetic vision with each project he records. Such is the case once again on Door in a Field, Ridlís tribute to the toil and humanity of the people who help feed the nation...Ridl, as one who knows, uses the means of music to describe the feelings that wide open spaces engender. As a result, Door in a Field reflects the calmer, more evenly paced tenor of life lived closer to nature than some of Ridlís other works that involved more jagged themes at a faster tempo and sometimes unconventional meters, reflecting perhaps an East Coast state of mind.
So, the first track, 'Sun on My Hands,' reminiscent of Ridlís deceased fatherís work in the fields, glides with rich colors from string accompaniment as a reassuring waltz. 'Disciní' contains the same amount of imagery in the creation of the music as Ridl simulates the motion of the plowing of the field, unhurried but unceasing. Even in the slower pace of the life on the farm, Ridl finds celebration in the fields on 'Caragana' as Darryl Hallís strong bass lines and Mark Walkerís rocking beat in the main theme alternate with a straight four in the bridge. Hall takes the melodic lead on 'Sweet Clover' as Ridl fills in with spare chords, as Hall proves that heís one of the more under-recognized bassists on the scene. Ridl concludes this reminiscence about the experiences of his early life on the plains with 'Green Meadow Waltz,' a simple Czech folk song adapted to a rolling, country/Western beat.
Hall and Walker, who hadnít experienced the same sense of quiet farmland serenity, buy into Ridlísí vision and provide a solid, unassuming sense of motion, like windswept wheat. A unified body of work inspired by Ridlís childhood, Door in a Field, gently direct and infused with a combination of folk and jazz sensibilities, is his most personalized work of restraint, reminiscence and affection."
- jazzreview.com

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Documenting a late 1999 concert near Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, this release features bassist Steve Varner and drummer Jim Miller in extended performances of three Ridl originals and two standards, plus a characteristic piano solo: "Prelude to First Rose" / "First Rose" / "Only Half a Cup?" / "Get After It Boogie" / "Caravan" / "Song of The Green River" / "Cherokee"

What the critics say:

"Ridl shows his capacity to mix abstraction and romanticism. 'First Rose' develops this mixture, supporting a harmonic work more than melody, but with a certain tenderness. He does this by working the harmonic dissonances and abstractions, while generally keeping a bop spirit, which makes of Ridl a musician a little left of center (on the left of the medium), as they say in the United States.
Jim Miller and Steve Varner supplement perfectly the shifted approach of the pianist and also deliver solos of quality.
Other facets of Ridl appear during the three following personal compositions. 'Only Half a Cup?' begins with a topic whose dry humour points out Monk. It is followed by a blues-tinted improvisation, played initially with a very short touch (I am tempted to say transitory) and a variety of attractive abstraction, before Ridl goes up in intensity. 'Get After It Boogie,' a solo, continues in this vein, its interest being in the fact that Ridl manages to play a recognizable boogie-woogie, without being neither a passeist, nor simply ironic.
The last composition of Ridl's, 'Song of the Green River,' is perhaps most interesting mťlodically. While alternating between a slow and dark vamp in three and a lighter passage in four, Ridl creates a fertile material to imagine the life of this river. Varner and Miller deliver here two splendid solos, that of Miller over the initial vamp being particularly dramatic.
On the standards 'Caravan' and 'Cherokee,' Ridl gives up a little the most abstracted elements from his style to play dynamic bebop. In spite of that, he approaches these pieces in a rather original way: His solo introduction on 'Cherokee' imagines a ballad, while 'Caravan' becomes much lighter than usual. Steve Varner delivers on this last an attractive solo mixing double stops, hesitations, melodies, blues and a little Mingus, before a more funky trio coda. Miller's solo on 'Cherokee' contains a splendid passage during which he plays the melody of the piece on his toms."
- Mwanji Ezana, Citizen Jazz

"...an hour-plus of stimulating trio music...
The sharing of ideas, the development of individual themes, and the ensuing collective improvisations are what lift the set preserved here far above the ordinary...the wide berth given the mixture of standards and originals shows the Trio in highly empathic form.
...Ridl displays strong, perhaps classically-based, technique. But the ensuing group interplay is near-selfless, valuing silence as much as activity, repose as much as sweat. Ridl expands, in 'First Rose,' on his opening prelude statements, turning clipped phrases into a platform for Varner and Miller to alternately walk alongside him and engage in a dance. 'Only Half A Cup?' has the three cooking along Ridl's sly blues connotations for a performance that would do any denizen of the Vanguard or Blue Note proud.
The classic 'Caravan' suits Ridl's thoughtful playing to a T, and it's great to hear Steve Varner's dark, woody bass tone decorate the Ducal writing. Miller, it should be mentioned, has a masterful grasp of dynamics, enhancing the often muted quality of the proceedings with close listening, and heating things up most appropriately when needed, almost casually tossing out the melody of 'Cherokee' (so nice to hear this tune approached in non-traditional ways), after Ridl and company unfurl its parameters, and ride it out for nearly 14 minutes of thrilling invention. Great album."
- Cadence

"...those who came out two years ago heard a very hard-working trio deliver a satisfying performance. Ridl's style isn't easy to categorize: he can play vertical games, even as he sets up a well-articulated, fine line through some of the challenging harmonic courses he crafts for himself. 'First Rose' is a thorny structure whose progression seems to wring whole-tone scalar figures out of the piano. Ridl reworks both 'Caravan' and 'Cherokee' into wide-open frameworks that give him, bassist Steve Varner and drummer Jim Miller plenty of stretching room. This is a trio that takes lots of chances, and delivers handsomely..."
- JazzTimes

"Pianist Jim Ridl dares a listener to take this journey. This live set...is daunting, high-minded stuff.
Ridl takes some mind-blowing excursions with bassist Steve Varner and drummer Jim Miller. A live connection flows among the players on this straight-ahead but questing set. The pianist creates some shimmering runs on 'First Rose,' while the standard 'Caravan' gets worked over until it's fresh and utterly reinvented.
The explorations can be exhausting...this set is powerful."
- Philadelphia Inquirer

"The Jim Ridl Trio LIVE proceeds as an organically arranged set, starting with a solo performance of 'Prelude To First Rose,' its minor-tinged theme hinting at mystery and meditation developed over an Impressionistic set of tones rather than setting-the-mind-at-ease chord changes. As the sustain of the prelude's final chord fades, bassist Steve Varner in a mood-setting solo creates the forward movement for the connected tune, 'First Rose.' Ridl stretches time and inserts his own quirky thoughts after referring to the lines Varner introduced and upon which the piece is built. As the tune intensifies, we find that Ridl, after a full keyboard descent, crafts rising and falling coruscations of notes, which, although not Pullenesque in their sweep and drama, assume a delicacy and deliberateness that characterize Ridl's style.
After performing 'Only Half A Cup?' an off-kilter blues that appeared on previous recordings, Ridl starts 'Get After It Boogie' with a tentative rumble until the left hand develops the repetitive, but thrillingly dynamic pattern.
While the 'Caravan' intro consists of quarter notes stitched seamlessly together by use of the sustain pedal, the audience at the Cafť found that it led into a pleasing and energetic version of the tune involving successive choruses of trio improvisation, allowing Varner to stretch out into a two-minute interpretation of his own.
'Song Of The Green River' is consistent with Ridl's interest in evoking images of Americana, and specifically of his homeland in the upper Midwest, in some of his performances. Involving the depiction of, one assumes, the river that flows from the Grand Tetons into northeast Utah, 'Song Of The Green River' nonetheless moves along a prodding 6-note figure that combines scenic depiction with soft rippling and eddying without the drama of rapids or falls.
Ending the concert with the familiar 'Cherokee,' Ridl plays the song as a straight trio version of head and improvisations, similar in may respects to 'Caravan.'
Too often gems of instantaneous improvised composition go unrecorded, and thus unknown, beyond the appreciation of the immediate audience; fortunately Jim Ridl's trio was, for once, recorded live to allow his growing fan base to enjoy his talent in a situation previously unavailable on CD."
- jazzreview.com

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JIM RIDL: "Blues Liberations" (EAR-1049)
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A collection of improvised piano solos - each titled after the fact - by the virtuosic Jim Ridl:
"Blue Azzara" / "Just Left of the Delta" / "Battle of the Bands" / "Play, My Heart, In Blue" / "Aisle Five" / "La Dee, La Daa" / "Prelude and More" / "Get After It Boogie" / "Clusters Last Stand" / "Pass It On" / "Snake Dance" / "You Know How It Is" / "Rushzin' Berz Bluz" / "Uh Huh, That's Right" / "Blue Corn" / "Slinky" / "Descending on Io" / "A Lovely Impression" / "Blue Dot"

What the critics say:

"...a set of 19 piano improvisations that show him to be an imaginative and insightful player. He has a lot of technique at his command but he also has the confidence to not be showing it off at every turn of the phrase.
Although largely a melodic player, he doesn't shy away from dissonance...He's also a player who's not afraid to show he has a sense of humor.
...enjoyable..." - Cadence

"Jim Ridl is quite an interesting player...Ridl certainly comes up with original ways to build on ideas that can be traced to blues playing, albeit usually in a pretty abstract way...Ridl doesn't sound like anyone that comes to mind, which is a good sign, but it makes his playing hard to describe. The harmonic sense is advanced and probably owes something to Europeans like Bartok, but I am also reminded of Abdullah Ibrahim's more adventurous work in places."
- JazzTimes

"Pianist Jim Ridl demonstrates impressive technical skills, finding cool colors in his madcap dashes through the keys. A frequent Pat Martino sideman, he seems to bring up the enigmatic guitar master on the intricate opener 'Blue Azzara,' which refers to Martino's birth name. 'Battle of the Bands' is a chordal slugfest that reaches reasonable heights, and 'Get After It Boogie' exudes a nice running vibe...impressive..."
- Philadelphia Inquirer

"Ridl has done it again...The interesting aspect of all of the pieces on 'Blues Liberations' is that they are based upon blues changes, either by implication or by a W.C. Handy type of moving-tenth left-hand stroll.
The result is pure improvisation, quirky, explorative, ruminative or admiring of the genre.
'Blues Liberations' is unlike any other blues album in its combination of intellectual fascination for the art form with unplanned approaches of elucidation. Not only does 'Blues Liberations' suggest the infinite possibilities of the blues, but it adds one more unpredictable approach from Ridl, who certainly deserves recognition..."
- Jazz News

"Taking something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue, Jim Ridl accomplishes something uncommon on 'Blues Liberations' that seems painfully obvious: He investigates the multitudinous forms of the blues...Ridl's avenues of approach involve discrepant and sometimes contradictory routes as they converge at the ultimate source of the music.
Rather than extended themes, Ridl's blues variations establish a mood and then go on to the next assumption. That is, we can assume the blues to suggest languor and sadness. We can assume the blues to depict frenzy. We can assume the blues to attain majesty. We can assume the blues to sort out complexity for a resulting simplicity of result.
So, 'Aisle Five' is all frantic stop-and-start motion referring by indirection and arpeggios to the blues chord structure as the full-keyboarded scamper refers perhaps to discount store chaos. We've heard this mastery of the instrument before on Ridl's previous CD, 'Five Minutes To Madness & Joy,' wherein his percussive and expansive approach proves a personalized technique. In contrast to 'Aisle Five,' Ridl refers to the more often heard piano blues approach of walking tenths and bent dissonances on 'Play, My Heart, In Blue' or 'You Know How It Is.' 'Get After It Boogie' relies upon an irresistible, flowing left-hand phrase somewhat akin to the ĺ of 'I Feel Pretty,' but still off kilter with a less-predictable meter. 'Clusters Last Stand' indeed wittily develops a blues through tonal clusters, sounding sometimes like Brubeck's broad chords that defy final resolution through suspended intervals.
'Blues Liberations' arose from Ridl's pure improvisations on the blues as he considered alternative approaches to a century-old form. Often without title, but rather involving concept, Ridl's tracks didn't assume titles until after they were recorded. The naming was less important than the musical curiosity revealed through the performance." - All About Jazz

"On 'Blues Liberation' master sideman Jim Ridl goes it alone in a program of improvised solo piano compositions. The disc opens with 'Blues Azzara,' an homage to the great Pat Martino, one of the band leaders Jim's wonderful piano has contributed so much to in recent years...Replete with dark, ominous chords, counter-point, note retentions and wandering right hand figures, it's a fine, wistful dedication. 'Battle of the Bands' is a modern take on the grand history of the piano, as swing, stride and boogie-woogie effortlessly flow together into a big band sound while Jim's right hand 'battles' his left. Whatever Jim saw on 'Aisle Five,' it was some bad stuff! Jim staggers then races up and down the keyboard at warp speed, kind of like Cecil Taylor by way of Oscar Peterson. 'La Dee, La Daa' is a simply gorgeous modern ballad. The title refers to what the piano seems to 'say' in the main figure of the piece. James P. Johnson and Willie 'The Lion' Smith themselves would dig 'Get After It Boogie.' Again, the race is on, and Jim does get after it. The left hand stays home with the ostinato boogie figure while the chords and fills in the right hand go into outer space! 'Blue Corn' features more of a be-bop approach, the entire piece a foray into impossible single note lines played in octaves, starting low on the piano and ending in the higher register. This is a master class on how to play modern jazz and octaves on the piano as Jim displays his incredible technique, innate sense of rhythmic drive and comfort with up-tempos. The disc closes as softly as it opened with 'A Lovely Impression' and 'Blue Dot,' both impressionistic variations on a theme. 'Blues Liberations' is a success - here the blues is liberated and free to mingle with its classical, modern jazz, rhythm and blues, avant-garde and new age cousins. The sounds are cerebral and swinging with one foot in the illustrious tradition of the instrument and both eyes firmly facing the future of the music."
- All About Jazz (NY)

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