A Different Time

This is John Medeski’s first solo album. It’s also the first release on the revived Okeh label, once the record company that put out the work of such jazz pioneers as Louis Armstrong and King Oliver. Jazz fans know Medeski as the endlessly inventive keyboardist who anchors the trio of Medeski Martin & Wood. Here, however, Medeski is alone in front of a Gaveau, a French piano akin to the one Chopin played. In a publicity release, Medeski said, “The Gaveau required a very delicate controlled touch.” It’s the delicacy of his touch that gives this album its distinction. Solo jazz piano albums sometimes devolve into self-indulgent noodling, but Medeski’s authenticity of feeling is served well by the instrument here, and he achieves a tone that is both tender and emotionally evocative. I liked the album the first time I played it, but the third morning it came up in my player was when I really began to hear just how much Medeski had accomplished. In songs like Willie Nelson’s “I’m Falling in Love Again” and the moving “Luz Marina,” Medeski’s exquisitely delicate touch taps into quite beautiful realms of honest emotion. You can play this album as background music, but its true rewards come with attentive listening.