Geoffrey Dean Quartet: Foundations

American pianist focuses on lesser-played hard-bop tunes including work by Sam Rivers, Duke Pearson, Elmo Hope and Andrew Hill


American pianist and composer Geoffrey Dean met trumpeter Justin Copeland and drummer Eric Binder 10 years ago when all three were PhD students on the jazz performance course at Illinois University. They’ve been playing together ever since.

Dean has recorded and performed with Terell Stafford, Gregory Tardy and Steve Turre amongst others. Copeland plays with several different bands and Binder leads his own hard-bop trio. Recently they’ve teamed up with Harish Raghavan who leads his own quintet and has played bass for many artists including Vijay Iyer, Kurt Elling, Ambrose Akinmusire, Eric Harland, Mark Turner and Walter Smith III.

Foundations is the debut album from Dean’s quartet. The majority of its nine tracks are arrangements of lesser known hard-bop compositions from the 50s and 60s. Five of the nine were written by fellow pianists. The opening number, Cyclic Episode, is from Sam Rivers’ 1964 album, Fuchsia Swing Song. Blue Minor and My Conception are from Sonny Clark’s 1958 LP Cool Struttin’. E.S.P. was written by Wayne Shorter and released on Miles Davis’s 1965 album of the same name. Is That So comes from Duke Pearson’s 1966 nonet album Honeybuns while Low Tide is from the Elmo Hope Quintet LP of 1954. Nardis was written by Miles Davis for Cannonball Adderley’s 1958 Portrait Of Cannonball. Peter Bernstein’s Jet Stream stems from the guitarist’s 1995 quartet album, Signs Of Life and lastly, Andrew Hill’s Yokada Yokada is from his 1964 album Judgment!

Despite the hard-bop provenance of most of the tracks, the quintet delivers much of the music in straight-ahead fashion. One or two numbers lack a bit of brio and that’s probably why they aren’t played much these days, but that’s a minor cavil. Some of the trumpet playing fades a little at times and can sound a touch tremulous. It’s not due to trepidation on the part of the artist, far from it – Copeland is clearly highly experienced. It sounds as if it may be down to sporadic casualness in delivery resulting in some notes being insufficiently sustained. Don’t let this put you off though – overall this is an interesting collection by a quartet that gels well.

Cyclic Episode; Blue Minor; My Conception; E.S.P.; Is That So; Low Tide; Nardis; Jet Stream; Yokada Yokada (43.47)
Dean (p); Justin Copeland (t); Harish Raghavan (b); Eric Binder (d). Brooklyn, NY, 5-6 June 2023.
AMP Music & Records AT0165