by Stamish Malcuss
Pianist, Ben Geyer has worked in various music scenes, from the clubs of New York City, to Atlanta, the New Hampshire Seacoast, and Central Kentucky. He has worked with Winard Harper, Avery Sharpe, Barry Ries, Marion Cowings, Stjepko Gut, Peter Dominguez, Michael Feinberg, Ian Froman, Terence Harper, and Endre Rice.
Geyer recently moved to Carrollton, Georgia to become Assistant Professor of Music Theory and Director of Jazz Studies at the University of West Georgia. He previously taught at Oberlin College Conservatory and has a Ph.D. in Music Theory from the University of Kentucky, with research on jazz composer Maria Schneider. Geyer also has a B.M. in Studio Music and Jazz from the University of Miami Frost School of Music and studied with Hal Galper for his M.M. in Jazz Studies from Purchase College (SUNY).
The Ben Geyer trio is making a strong musical statement. Of course, as a jazz fan I like to go right to an albums selection that is either a standard or a well-known tune from the jazz library to get a feel for the interpreter’s voice. In Geyer’s case, John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” is the sole tune on the album from the jazz lineage. The melody is given an enjoyable rhythmic make over, but the tune is still very much intact and respectful of Coltrane’s ideals. Geyer’s piano solo stood out on this cut, with his lines keeping the harmonic flow and his ideas always come through in musical statements. He is pianist that develops the musical setting, building a sound stage for his intensely melodic solo, full of gentle articulation. The trio supports well in their teamwork, functioning as a single organism, resulting in a efficacious rendition of a modern jazz classic.
The title track has a nice energy to it. After Darden’s drum intro the melody comes in and the stage is set for the most aggressive sounds on the date, which is largely on the intimate and relaxed side. All three players generate sublime energy and substantive tone, producing an enjoyable funky rhythmic drive with a tonal edge. Geyer’s solo is a moment where he tells his story through impeccably shaped phrases and ultra-refined tonal shadings. Further cementing his ideas as a player and composer.
Geyer’s trio interpretation of a standard is an opportunity to hear how these artists transformed the Coltrane original with their own subtle narratives and group storytelling, but The Acadian Orogeny is also an opportunity to hear a transformative group shape and convey Geyer’s original compositions firmly rooted in the modern jazz idiom. Joined by bassist Peter Dominguez and drummer Zaire Darden together they explore the inspiration behind the album the actual Acadian orogeny, which stretches roughly from New Hampshire to Kentucky and was Geyer’s tribute after he journeyed along the actual path the day after the title composition was completed. Geyer states “The album can be heard as an exploration of topographies, where each composition traces a different path and vantage point.” Certainly, one can hear the inspiration of mother nature within the natura of each tune.