This music by Jarrett Cherner is innovative and profound, and while Cherner makes everything he plays sing with bardic lyricism and echo with lush textures, his ability to make the heart beat faster and the blood run warmer supersedes everything else on the record. Thus “Meditations” – all three movements of the piece – on Expanding Heart are contradictions in terms for nowhere is Cherner’s wind-up more sparse and angular and pressing.
The aching harmonies and the downward music will not lull the senses, but in fact, starts to get the heart fibrillating once the rippling arpeggios and swirling glissandos get going as the pianist turns the melody line inside out. It is “heart music” alright, but with forward momentum, music for a palpitating heart. Navigating around Jarrett Cherner’s music one is struck by its humanity. His pianism is devoid of pretentious posturising and florid, tired figurations. Just a gentle swing imbued into a left hand that thrives on peerless timekeeping and bass line inventions while the pianist’s right hand is constantly driving the melody in a myriad of ways, referencing – every now and then – the masters of the instrument from Oscar Peterson and Bill Evans. Check out “Whispering” and you will hear what I mean.
Also, surprise of surprises, Jarrett Cherner turns his unique and eloquent voice to recast two of Ornette Coleman’s songs as he pushes the envelope further forward on “What Reason Could I Give” and “Turnaround”. But more than anything else Hughes’ imprimatur as a Bill Evans acolyte is heard with focused engagement, the whispered intimacy with which his every solo flight begins, develops and ends and above all in his powerful-sweet sound. But to express successful newness in the tried and tested trio format Jarrett Cherner must – and does – display a deftly-constructed exploration of exploration of the relationship between piano, bass and drums. All of the music here on Expanding Heart is underpinned by the poetic settings of melody, framed by rapid (or almost indulgent cantabile soulfulness) arpeggios, trills, tremolos and harmonics on the part of Jarrett Cherner.
Most of all, the trio portions of the pieces are all framed by fiercely beautiful and spiky improvised solos on the part of every musician. The lyricism innate in the music is never taken for granted and each piece is imbued with a poetry of its own. The re-imagining of Coleman’s material is an invigorating example of the harmonic progress of the maddeningly complex tune is driven right out of the park. Even then, the harmonic progress is stately, with much of the activity revolving around the slowly mutating, repeated motifs interspersed with drum-rolls and bell-like scales that contribute to the attenuated sonorities in this music. An altogether unforgettable album any which way you’ll want to look at it.