Bennett Paster: Radiance

NY pianist's trio offers updates on soul-jazz that variously recall Bobby Timmons, Ray Bryant, Nat Adderley and Becker & Fagen


Groove is an essential element of Radiance, the ninth outing of pianist Bennett Paster. Admirably, the Brooklyn, New York resident resists the temptation of rehashing classic soul-jazz and presents a set of original tunes with modern harmonic twists.

Sassy and seductive melodies like Still Jive remind of Bobby Timmons and Ray Bryant. Paster knows the funky ins and the bluesy outs and grabs our attention with clear, melodic lines and firm and hip chords. His gospel-tinged shuffle Pyramid Beach and mid-tempo blues I Remember Nat get the same earthy but mature treatment. I Remember Nat is dedicated to trumpeter Nat Adderley. In our email correspondence, Paster says of Adderley: 

“He had an amazing ability to write catchy, simple and bluesy songs that still really had substance and craftsmanship. That’s one thing I was striving for on this album, songs with real melodic meaning, that would be memorable and still fun to improvise over.” 

Indeed, Paster’s joy of playing catchy but cleverly constructed jazz is palpable. Understate is a juicy R&B riff that bites its own tail like a mad and maddened snake, a nifty game of placing accents and turning around beats. Inner Voices is a pleasantly quirky blues. Paster’s notes roll and tumble like socks in a washing machine.

Other times, he performs songs that are built on subtle cross and Afro-Latin rhythm or sound like ideas from Steely Dan’s Becker and Fagen, colleagues in the grand history of New York music-making. All the while, the support of bassist Gary Wang and drummer Tony Mason is solid and precise. To boot, Wang contributes concise, meaty solos and Mason vigorously trades fours with Paster.

Fifty-five minutes is a bit long for my taste, but that doesn’t take away the fact that Paster is an intelligent and soulful pianist that turned in a thoroughly enjoyable affair.

Radiance: Agile Wallaby; Still Jive; Pyramid Breakfast; Interlude; Understate; I Remember Nat; Go Gary; Strange Mercy; Inner Voices; Tomcat (55.50)
Paster (p); Gary Wang (b); Tony Mason (d). New York City, December 2022 and April 2023.