"Unabridged" Review

By Vittorio Lo Conte!

The discovery of this record by Billy Lester is a beautiful surprise. From the very first track, Overture: Passionate Musings, one can observe that the American pianist has chosen his path, free from any external imposition, whether it’s a music theme or a precise structure that may limit the expansion of his ideas. Everything is improvised and represents a journey in Lester's inner world, who in the last few years has learned to sit in the dark to avoid external distractions, and to wait for inspiration coming from the darkness within. He studied with Sal Mosca and has acquired a very deep understanding of the music of Lennie Tristano over the years. He became familiar with their most free writing but just now he has succeeded in creating a more coherent music, even if he is not oriented toward any apparent structure. Jamba Swing is an important piece for Lester. He describes it as a journey in the spontaneity of the unconscious, where for the first time he freed himself from the influence of the great icons of the past. Nonetheless his music has the qualities that we find in jazz, without the typical structures with which we are so familiar. The blues dedicate to Charlie Christian goes beyond the standards (criteria) of the genre. In other pieces he becomes passionate, like in Spree-ing, a composition that proceeds (begins) wrapped by intense bass notes played by the left hand, and that then continues in a completely opposite direction to the one imagined while listening to the performance. In the end the entire record is a surprise, it's an hymn to improvisation which becomes the self portrait of a pianist who has discovered his own dimension. The words written on the front cover are by Howard Mandel, president of the Jazz Journalists Association (JJA). He too was surprised by this record, which is unique, but deeply rooted in this music.