Ever since she moved to New York in 1998, Linda Presgrave
has developed into a highly original pianist and composer. Starting with
her debut CD from 2000, In Your Eyes, and continuing with The
Linda Presgrave Quartet – Live and The Journey, she
has become increasingly individual, sounding unlike anyone else while being
inspired by many different artists, events and places. The Journey featured
her group performing works by jazz musicians who happened to be women. Inspiration has
ten additional selections by females including six by the pianist herself.
Born and raised in St. Louis, Linda Presgrave already had a very busy career
before moving East. She started on piano when she was seven and a few years
later began doubling on French horn. After earning her Masters from Washington
University, she performed on French horn in orchestras for ballets, Broadway-type
shows, brass ensembles and accompanying major entertainers while leading
her own group After Six Jazz as a pianist, not to mention having
a busy teaching career. In 1998, after meeting her future husband Stan Chovnick,
she moved to New York and soon gave up the French horn in favor of concentrating
exclusively on piano.
The concept behind The Journey and Inspiration originated
in 2003 when Linda was invited to Frascati, Italy to appear in the concert
series ControCanto: Donne In Jazz, specifically to perform music
written by women. She returned to the Italian festival in 2004 and 2007 and
was inspired to seek out additional works by talented females, particularly
lesser-known but superior songs.
For Inspiration, Linda was happy to again be performing with very
talented musicians. “This is the fourth time that I’ve
used Harvie S on my CD. His bass playing inspires me because he is very musical
in addition to always being there time-wise. Drummer Alison Miller is very
positive and professional, really enjoying what she is doing and doing it
so well. I always really liked the soprano saxophone playing of my husband
Stan; he is on four numbers. Todd Herbert, who is on two songs, is a new
recording artist on the label and a wonderful tenor-saxophonist.”
Trombonist-arranger-composer Melba Liston had a unique career and wrote
many underplayed works including Insomnia, the opening number of
this set. The quartet excels on the Middle Eastern feel of this selection,
with Stan Chovnick’s soprano making the piece sound a bit eerie. All
four musicians have opportunities to solo, with Linda displaying some personal
chord voicings over the blues changes.
studied for a time with pianist Joanne Brackeen in the late 1990s. “She
pushed me to start composing, and showed me that it is something that I needed
to do. Playing my own compositions became part of who I am.” On Brackeen’s Evening
In Concert, the pianist takes an unaccompanied introduction before Harvie
S assumes a major role. The complex but thoughtful piece features an eight-note
downward phrase as its basis and is full of subtle creativity.
Of Céret was written by Linda in Céret, France one day
when she was out on the balcony of her hotel room and heard a syncopated
bird call. Stan’s soprano duplicates the bird call which sets up
the piece. A little reminiscent of Night And Day in spots, the
selections is a relaxed romp full of happy spirits.
Struttin’ In Manhattan is about walking down the street and
feeling great about being in Manhattan. It is a purposeful strut with forward
momentum, allowing one to imagine walking fast in New York City while trying
to take in all of the sights at once.
For Holmes is a medium-slow blues that is dedicated to St. Louis
trumpeter Randy Holmes, a local legend. It is a blues with an attitude
that is suitably expressed by Todd Herbert during his passionate tenor
Pianist Bertha Hope’s You Know Who has an unpredictable chord
structure, being bluish without being a blues. It inspires a catchy bass
pattern near the end of each chorus, stimulating commentary by Allison Miller’s
drums, and an inventive piano solo.
for Patricia was written for Patricia Adkins Chiti, the woman
who heads the foundation in Italy that brought Linda to Italy. “She
has done so much for cataloguing works by women that I thought it was time
to pay tribute to her.” The thoughtful floating jazz waltz is harmonically
advanced, a bit classical-oriented, and features active bass and light
drumming behind Linda’s fine solo.
Cheese received its name because “the title is a poor translation
of a great pasta dish that the musicians kept ordering in Italy.” The
cooking piece, which features fluent soprano, piano and bass solos, may
be minor-toned but is quite joyful.
Billie Holiday wrote the words to Don’t Explain, a standard
that Linda gives a particularly emotional treatment during her solo piano
a tribute to the city that Linda has visited three times in five years. The
full quintet begins the piece in a spiritual vein that conjures up the image
of ancient Rome before stretching out on heated solos that bring Inspiration
to a rousing conclusion.
future, Linda Presgrave looks forward to traveling more extensively, continuing
to explore women’s compositions, and writing many originals of her
own. She has the potential to make a major impact on the jazz world, with
the highly enjoyable and creative music of Inspiration inspiring
other musicians to develop their own voices.
Scott Yanow is the author of ten jazz books including The Jazz Singers, Bebop, Trumpet
Kings, Jazz On Film and Jazz On Record 1917-76.
A close musician friend of mine suggested that I might want to think carefully
about entitling this CD Inspiration. Why did he suggest this?
He mentioned that in this day and age, too many things will come up when
you “google” in the word Inspiration when searching
on the internet. I understand the importance of this from a marketing
stand point especially when releasing a CD and a jazz CD at that. However,
if there is one thing that I have learned in life, it is important to know
what your priority is when making a decision. My priority is
that the works on this CD truly did come to me directly from either “ divine
guidance” or some “influence” as the word inspiration has
been defined. And so, there it is. I can honestly not think
of a more apt title than Inspiration for this very personal recording
and I will just trust that it will travel from the un-manifest to the
manifest – even on the internet .
~ Linda Presgrave
My parents, Walter (Bud) Brophy and Willine Brophy, who have passed
on but will always be with me; My brother, John Brophy, an outstanding
drummer and musician who inspired me musically from a very early age; My
husband/producer, Stan Chovnick, who has always supported my music and
believed in me.