Beka Gochiashvili: Beka Gochiashvili (2012)
Those who toil in the jazz trenches often spend a lifetime trying to develop their own sound and acquire a high-level understanding of this music, but a select few seem to be born into the fold. Drumming innovator Tony Williams, guitar sensation Julian Lage and pianist Eldar Djangirov were playing at an über-proficient level as children and each brought something unique to this art form; pianist Beka Gochiashvili can now be added to this list.
Gochiashvili, who hails from Tbilisi, Georgia, started playing piano at the ripe old age of three, worked his way through the classics by the time he was eight and was gigging at jazz clubs when he was ten. When Gochiashvili was eleven, he had the opportunity to sit in with drummer Lenny White and bassist Victor Bailey at Latvia's Saulkrasti Jazz Festival and he managed to turn both of their 'I've-seen-it-all' heads. Now, five years after that encounter, White and Bailey can be heard side-by-side with this prodigious pianist on his first record. This self-titled debut features a cast of giants that most can only dream of playing with, but Gochiashvili doesn't cower in the face of greatness; he seizes the day and delivers a set of winning performances that show he can hold his own with anyone.
Gochiashvili works through post-bop ("New York"), blues ("Coco"), heart-core balladry ("Song To Niniko") and highly manicured, string-enhanced settings with vocals ("Herio Bichebo"), but his best work exists at the crossroads between accessible post-modernism and fusion of the less abrasive variety. His own tribute to Chick Corea ("Un Gran Abrazo") and White's nod to his Return To Forever band mates ("Chicknstan") place Gochiashvili squarely in the Corea camp, stylistically speaking, but that's not the whole story either. "Made Of Tenderness" melts into the calming air, "For Keith" finds the young pianist in fine form as he gives a nod in name, if not sound, to Keith Jarrett, and "Exit To The West" transitions from a chops-driven tornado into an odd-metered fusion burner.
The heavy hitters on board for the journey, like trumpeter Wallace Roney and bassists Stanley Clarke, John Patitucci and Ben Williams, deliver on their big-name promise, but Gochiashvili and guitarist Tom Guarna really define the sound of the record. Gochiashvili creates the context and Guarna alternately acts as his foil or fall-in-line colleague, depending on the circumstances at hand.
Clarke's claim that this is "the best debut of a young musician since Tony Williams with Miles Davis" may be a bit over the top, but Beka Gochiashvili is certainly one hell of a talent. The future looks bright as can be for this piano wunderkind.
Track Listing: Un Gran Abrazo; For Keith; New York; Song To Niniko; Chicknstan; Herio Bichebo; Coco; Passionately In Love; Made Of Tenderness; L's Bop; When Almonds Blossomed; Exit To The West.
Personnel: Beka Gochiashvili: piano, Fender rhodes; Natalia Kutateladze: vocals; Stanley Clarke: acoustic bass; John Patitucci: acoustic bass; Victor Bailey: acoustic bass, electric bass; Ben Williams: acoustic bass; Lenny White: drums; Richie Barshay: drums; Tom Guarna: acoustic guitar, electric guitar; Wallace Roney: trumpet; Jaleel Shaw: alto saxophone; Ben Solomon: tenor saxophone.
Record Label: Exitus Entertainment
Style: Modern Jazz