One, the new first album from Ray Angry, isn’t like most debuts. That’s probably because the pianist isn’t exactly an up-and-comer: He’s got a huge list of playing, writing and producing credits dating back to the Nineties, including work with everyone from Mick Jagger to Joss Stone, Christina Aguilera, the Roots, Miguel and DJ Khaled. That might explain why One sounds more like the statement of an assured veteran.
Angry grew up steeped in gospel and classical, and his résumé ranges all over the musical map. He throws some eclectic flourishes into One, riffing on Björk (one tune is based on Homogenic‘s “All Is Full of Love”) and covering outside-the-box composer Carla Bley. But this is a jazz record, plain and simple, accessible yet consistently fresh. The Angry original “It Might Be Gold” sums up the album’s appeal, and shows off what an outstanding cast the pianist has assembled: reedist/flutist Myron Walden, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, bassist Derrick Hodge and drummer Eric Harland, all world-class virtuosos and bandleaders in their own right.
Starting out with a quick Harland drum break, the piece segues into a trio passage, where Angry shows off his dazzling command of the keys, and then into a bright, funky full-quintet theme, like a modern update of something Horace Silver might have recorded for Blue Note in the late Fifties. The soloists — Walden on alto sax and Akinmusire on trumpet — maintain that old-school feel by keeping their statements brief. A quick, raucous group improv on the form follows, leading back into the final theme. It’s all over in less than three-and-a-half minutes, a reminder that jazz was once jukebox music. Like the album as a whole, all of which was recorded live to analog tape, the track crackles with one-take energy, and the enthusiasm of a longtime sideman finally stepping into the spotlight.
Angry drops by The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon on Monday to perform music from One, with help from his old friends the Roots.