The compositions are intricate, but delicate at the same time. Shamie is totally on board the post-bop train and I hear a little bit of Keith Jarrett in her phrasing. I listen to this album a lot.
Our light shines brightest in the darkness and things in life don’t always turn out the way that we have planned. It is with these maxims in mind that the brilliant pianist and composer Shamie Royston presents her new recording, Beautiful Liar. Her second release is a testament to perseverance and the proposition that learning from mistakes will help in the pursuit of goals and subsequent triumphs.
Though the path might not have always been an easy one, Royston’s light is luminous and her music has served her in establishing herself as a leading voice in the jazz world. Originally from Denver, Colorado, Royston has been an integral part of the New York jazz scene as a performer and educator. Her contributions as a pianist can be heard alongside celebrated leaders like Tia Fuller, Ralph Peterson, Sean Jones and Terri Lyne Carrington.
On Beautiful Liar, the core sound is that of the piano trio, embellished by one or two horns for different sonic possibilities. Drummer Rudy Royston provides a strong rhythmic foundation and centric fire when paired up with bassist Yasushi Nakamura, whose strong bass presence is essential to the leader’s compositions.
Royston expands the ensemble on a number of pieces, exploring possibilities of a quartet and of a quintet. The melodic approach of saxophonist Jaleel Shaw serves as a perfect voice for Royston’s compositions. Royston also adds trumpet player Josh Evans, who ignites a sound of juxtaposing harmonies into Beautiful Liar. This recording focuses on the piano trio as a lead voice, while the horns’ roles are reminiscent of background singers and soloists, for a few of the compositions.
The pieces present on Beautiful Liar are all original compositions, except the great “A Lovely Day,” which was made famous by Bill Withers. Furthermore, every original composition represents trials and tribulations of life, reflecting Royston’s life journey and personal development.
The program begins with the ruminative “Sunday Nostalgia,” one of Royston’s oldest tunes but one that sets a scene with a sense of peace. The effervescent “Push” is about pushing through adversity and the emotions of that struggle. The title track, “Beautiful Liar,” relates to objects, images, ideas or people not being as good for us as we think they are. Initially, there is a simple, moving melody that soon becomes disrupted with a vigorous rhythm. The lilting “Precious Lullaby” is a beautiful theme written in ¾ and is a tribute to Royston’s two children, for whom she would invent lullabies at bedtime when they were younger.
The fantastically swinging “Dissimulate” is about concealing one’s true character, which is illustrated by the melody being played by one voice and then recreated by a second voice, the interweaving lines of sax and trumpet only coming together at the end, moving from chaos to a united resolution. She chose to add Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day” because it represents times of happiness and hope. This particular arrangement features the horns as background singers. “Circulo Vicioso” represents a sequence of reciprocal cause and effect in which two or more elements intensify and aggravate one another, leading to a worsening of a situation. The song is musically constructed around a circular melodic pattern intertwined with Afro-Cuban rhythms.
A personal favorite, “Uplifted Heart,” comes from a poignant melody Royston created that gives a feeling of happiness and peacefulness in the world. “A Tangled Web We Weave” describes a complex or difficult situation that one creates out of deceit. The piece begins with the trio before adding Shaw’s soprano sax. Both piano and sax melodies intertwine as the music continues to grow. The recording concludes with a solo piano take of “Precious Lullaby,” a moment of reflection and calm.
Beautiful Liar is a luminous portrayal of the full spectrum of life’s possibilities. Shamie Royston explores the full breadth of her experience and inspiration from the good, the bad and the obscure, to create a lovely recording. In essence, her message is that the key to life’s fulfillment is showering oneself with passion, positivity and promise.