Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Biggest Piano

The Biggest Piano in Town
By Grand Pianoramax

Leo Tardin is Grand Pianoramax. The concept is his, and the band is basically his piano and keyboards, augmented with different guests. On his latest, The Biggest Piano in Town (on-sale today), Meshell Ndegeocello drummer Deantoni Parks is a near constant on all but one track, joining a revolving cast of rap and spoken word artists like Mike Ladd, Celena Glenn, and others.

Tardin has jazz chops, having won the first Montreux Jazz Festival International Piano Solo Competition. However, GP is more of synthesis of various forms of electronic music, including electronica and ambient, but often bringing to mind the vibe of “Rock-It” era Herbie Hancock.

It starts with “Showdown,” the track that really earns BPW the parental advisory logo on the cover. There is a “clean” edit too, but here “clean” is relative. It is an explicit fable of dueling voyeuristic superheroes that in its way, makes an idealistic defense of romantic love. Sort of.

There are some more jazz oriented tracks though, like the acoustic “Ride I: the Race.” It is a nice showcase for Tardin’s facility on the keys, giving a sense of the road he is largely not currently taking. Most tracks however, have a definitely pronounced electro-funk feeling, like “The Hook Introduction” and “Ride II: Driftin.”

BPW segues through a variety of moods, drifting into chill-out territory at times. While “In the Lab’s” plethora of quirky effects over Parks’ steady drum line are at first somewhat dull, the tune dramatically evolves into “Tempest,” a hypnotic trance that recalls the best work of four80east. Given its strong melodic hook, it might be the most compelling track on GP, and makes for a strong conclusion.

Tardin must enjoy confusing genre classification. Press materials for BPW describe it as “Nu-Jazz (Elements of Phuture Funk/Hip-Hop/Spoken Word).” Add to that chill-out, jam, and ambient. That should clear things up. GPW might become a “pick-and-chose” album for many downloaders. Actually, Tardin is nearly always doing interesting things here, but various tracks may well appeal to very different people. It suggests Tardin will be an intriguing figure to watch in the future.