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Jazz

John Salmon

John Salmon Plays Brubeck

[Albany]

Three stars

Pianist John Salmon, like Buffalo, was friends with Dave Brubeck. Salmon likes to perform the music of the master, and he brings his own touch to it, a unique approach that could be called jazz with classical sensibilities. Two earlier CDs, to my recollection, have shown what he can do in this department. A 2006 album, “Nocturnes,” spotlighted ethereal, quiet Brubeck pieces. The other, the 2010 disc “Salmon is a Jumpin’,” had him playing duets with himself.

The chief piece on this disc is Dave and Chris Brubeck’s “Ansel Adams: America,” derived from an orchestral suite commissioned from the Brubecks by a bunch of orchestras. This 22-minute long score isn’t as much fun as the shorter pieces that are just tossed off. Listening to it, you have trouble finding its focus. But it swirls through a variety of enjoyable episodes, and it’s interesting to catch echoes of classical and jazz giants, most notably Bach and Darius Milhaud, Brubeck’s teacher. Brubeck’s “Brandenburg Gate” is a sparkling fusion of Bach and Brubeck – well written and played, neither of which is easy.

A variety of short pieces of varying quality, including one by Chris Brubeck, round out the disc. One of them, “We Will All Remember Paul,” is especially lyrical. Dave Brubeck wrote it as a tribute to Paul Desmond. Salmon, who has been heard on NPR and in recitals for the Van Cliburn Foundation, is on the faculty of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

– Mary Kunz Goldman