Pianist Kenny Drew Jr.'s performance at the Venice Arts Center yesterday was rich in originality, a dazzling command of the keyboard and tips of the hat to late piano greats who have influenced him mightily.
He blended standards from the jazz canon and the American Songbook and his dazzling solo improvisation on one classical piece, the first movement of Franz Liszt's "Liebestraum."
He also shared tributes written for Oscar Peterson ("Mr. Peterson's Birthday"), Bill Evans ("This One's for Bill") and his father, ("Dedication"). Drew's style draws much from all three players, particularly Peterson and the late Kenny Drew.
On the Peterson tribute that closed the first set, Drew dug into the essence of the Canadian giant's bluesy and powerful freight-train-like approach to the keyboard. There were moments when it felt as if the spirit of O.P. was in the house.
Drew's takes on Miles Davis's "Solar" and the concert-closing John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" were fascinating. He began each tune by layering portions of the distinctive melodic line over itself, sounded like a piano version of a choral group's performance of a round, in which the line repeats and overlaps itself.
His trio featured Bruce Wallace on bass and Tom Carabasi on drums. Their simpatico was a treat. This was the first South County Jazz Club appearance for all three players.