What’s on your Playlist: Leslie Pintchik

November 16, 2018

Leslie Pintchik is one of today’s most musically intelligent, technically proficient jazz composers and pianists. The New Yorker says she is, “a crafty, lyrically minded pianist, a compelling composer, and an inventive interpreter of standards.” Before embarking on her music career, she worked as a teaching assistant in English literature at Columbia University, where she earned a Master of Philosophy degree in 17th-century English literature. Pintchik first surfaced on the Manhattan scene in a trio with legendary bassist Red Mitchell at Bradley’s and in the ensuing years, she formed her own group which performs at venues such as the Blue Note and Jazz At Kitano in her home city of New York, as well as in other cities throughout the East Coast.

Pintchik has released six critically acclaimed recordings since her 2004 debut. The most recent, 2018’s You Eat My Food, You Drink My Wine, You Steal My Girl!, has prompted much critical acclaim She also brings that depth and thought to her writing (including the liner notes she penned for albums by Steve Wilson, Lewis Nash, and Bruce Barth, among others), and her listening, as evidenced by this playlist.

1. Turnê 23º Prêmio da Música Brasileira (with vocalists Mariana Aydar, Leila Pinheiro, Péricles, Alcione) – Homenagem a João Bosco [DVD]

This 2012 Brazilian DVD that celebrates the compositions of João Bosco has a bounty of great performances. Some favorites include Leila Pinheiro’s renditions of “Sinhá” (written by Bosco & Chico Buarque) and “Coisa Feita,” Mariana Aydar’s version of “O Ronco Da Cuica,” as well as some duets that João Bosco performed with Pinheiro (“Jade”) and Aydar (“Incompatibilidade de Gênios”). That last piece also includes solos from Bosco’s top-notch band which includes pianist João Carlos Coutinho, the great guitarist Lula Galvão, drummer Kiko Freitas and Amarando Marçal on percussion. Not an easy DVD to find these days, but well worth the effort! Some of the individual tracks can also be found on YouTube.

2. Miles Davis – My Funny Valentine

This 1965 classic featuring Miles Davis’ “second great quintet” with Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams, Ron Carter, and George Coleman (eventually to be replaced by Wayne Shorter) never ceases to amaze. Along with Davis’ fearlessness, the album also serves as a master class in group improvisation. The responsiveness of the musicians to each other (and particularly the way Herbie tracks and responds to Miles) is still thrilling, after hundreds of listens. When someone in the audience screams in excitement near the end of the in-head of “Stella by Starlight,” I feel the same way.

3. Rosa Passos e Lula Galvão – Letra & Música Ary Barroso

This gem of a collaboration between Brazilian vocalist Rosa Passos and guitarist Lula Galvão was originally released in 1997, but wasn’t easily obtainable outside of Brazil until fairly recently. I’ve been a longtime fan of Passos, and on this date, the combination of the lightness and sweetness of her voice, and her impeccable musicianship is near perfect. Galvão, who has worked with Passos many times over the years, is also particularly strong here. The album features excellent support from bassist Jorge Helder, drummer Erivelton Silva, and others.

4. Keith Jarrett – At the Deer Head Inn

In 1992, Jarrett returned to the club where he got his start as a jazz musician – the Deer Head Inn in Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania. A rare opportunity to hear Jarrett in an intimate setting, the date had Paul Motion (filling in for Jack DeJohnette) on drums and Gary Peacock on bass. The venue provided a more casual, relaxed atmosphere than the typical Jarrett concert. One of my favorite tracks on the album, “Bye Bye Blackbird,” has a particularly vibrant swing and vibe, and the audience really ate it up! I was able to attend the gig, and it was truly a special evening.

5. Oscar Castro-Neves – Live at Blue Note Tokyo

2012 seems to have been a great year for Brazilian music. Along with the DVD mentioned above, that year saw the release of Oscar Castro-Neves’ Live at the Blue Note Tokyo. A soulful album with abundant grooves thanks to the great Airto Moreira on drums and bassist Marcelo Mariano (son of legendary pianist Cesar Camargo Mariano). Singer Leila Pinheiro makes guest appearances on several tracks. Favorites include “Rio” (with Pinheiro on vocals) and “Rio Dawning,” sung by Castro-Neves, with a long, lyrical line floating above a seductive samba groove.

6. Richard Goode – Beethoven: The Complete Piano Concertos

In my mind, no playlist is complete without a selection from my favorite classical pianist, Richard Goode. In this 2005 box set, he performs all five Beethoven concertos with the Budapest Festival Orchestra, conducted by Iván Fisher. Sterling playing by Goode and the orchestra throughout, and as a bonus, the recording quality is superb.

7. Jim Hall and Red Mitchell – Jim Hall/Red Mitchell

It’s always a treat to hear humor done well in jazz. This date, recorded live at New York’s Sweet Basil in 1978, showcases the unique chemistry that Hall and Mitchell had. Favorites include the opener “Big Blues” where, after Hall and Mitchell solo, Hall continues to strum his guitar, as if he didn’t notice Mitchell had ended his solo. This evolves into a creative and hilarious “strum solo” by Hall, until the melody finally reappears. “Fly Me to the Moon” is another highlight. As a footnote, ArtistShare has recently released a follow-up CD (“Valse Hot”), consisting of unreleased tracks from the same date.

8. John Scofield – Groove Elation

I often find myself coming back to this 1995 Blue Note release. True to its title, the grooves on this album are to die for, thanks in part to drummer Idris Muhammad and bassist Dennis Irwin. Great solos from guitarist Scofield and pianist/organist Larry Goldings throughout, and solid arranging as well.

9. Joyce Moreno (feat. Tutty Moreno) – Samba Jazz & Outras Bossas

Although many in this country may be unfamiliar with her, singer/composer/guitarist Joyce Moreno is a living legend in Brazil, having penned songs sung by Elis Regina and other great Brazilian artists. On this 2007 release, she highlights her collaboration with her husband and longtime musical partner, drummer Tutty Moreno. My favorite version of the Brazilian standard “Berimbau,” by Baden Powell and Vinicius de Moraes, is on this album. There are many wonderful original tunes by Joyce here as well.

10. Wayne Shorter – Speak No Evil

There’s probably not much more that can be said that hasn’t already been said about this classic 1966 recording. Some of modern jazz’s most loved – and played – compositions are on this album, which features Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Freddy Hubbard, and Elvin Jones. Truly a masterpiece!

Leslie Pintchik’s most recent album, You Eat My Food, You Drink My Wine, You Steal My Girl! (Pintch Hard), dropped on February 23, 2018. www.lesliepintchik.com

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