Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Roberta Piket showcases the composing talents of Billy Mintz on "Domestic Harmony"

Pianist Roberta Piket showcases the composing talents of husband & collaborator Billy Mintz on
"Domestic Harmony: Piket Plays Mintz," set for December 6 release

Appearing at Mezzrow in NYC, on January 16, playing Billy Mintz's tunes with several duos, including Virginia Mayhew, Mike Fahn, & Mintz himself

Roberta Piket Domestic HarmonyPianist Roberta Piket presents a truly intimate musical offering with the December 6 release of Domestic Harmony: Piket Plays Mintz on her own Thirteenth Note Records. A solo piano performance (her third, following 2012's Solo and 2015's Solo Volume 2), the album assays ten intriguing compositions by Billy Mintz, the highly regarded drummer who regularly collaborates with Piket -- and who is also her husband.

The intimacy on display throughout Domestic Harmony is authentic: it was intended for an audience of one. Piket originally conceived the album a few years ago as a birthday surprise for Mintz. (She allows that it was "a milestone year" for the intensely private Mintz but declines to say which.) She arranged to record it while he was on tour, completed the editing later, and successfully surprised and delighted him when the big day came.

"It was just something I was doing for Billy, and not for anybody else," says Piket. "It was only later that I started to think about putting it out."

It's a beautiful glimpse of art at its most direct. Every nuance of Piket's lustrous touch, chord voicings, and improvisational energy -- and, on "Destiny," her tender, haunting vocal -- radiates with warmth and fondness for its recipient.

Of course, the recipient in question also played no small part in the creation of this music. "[Billy] has a very personal voice," says Piket. "He has a natural talent for looking at the big picture and going beyond just his instrument.... He writes in a very simple, direct way that's incredibly appealing." He has been honored before by musicians performing his compositions, including saxophonist Adam Kolker, pianist Russ Lossing, and Piket herself, who has previously recorded a few of the tunes on Domestic Harmony.
The context, however, transforms Piket's interpretations of them into something more personal and frank. If "Destiny," with Piket's vocal, is pointed in its expression, her thoughtful piano playing on "Ghost Sanctuary," "Flight," and "Your Touch" is no less so without it. As well, it's difficult to imagine a more perfect balance of affection with the inherent playfulness in "Shmear" and "Cannonball," both of which (uncoincidentally) feature some of the pianist's most assured and inventive improvisational work. Her unique birthday gift for her husband is now their shared gift to the world.

Roberta Piket was born in New York City on August 9, 1965 to a father who was a classical composer father and a mother who was a traditional pop singer. Needless to say, it was a musical household, made more so when at 14 young Roberta stumbled across a secondhand copy of Walter Bishop Jr.'s Speak Low at a synagogue bazaar. It began her journey into jazz piano.

Completing a joint double-degree program at New England Conservatory (in piano) and nearby Tufts University (in computer science), Piket first spent an unfulfilling year in software engineering before deciding that music was her true calling. She returned to New York in 1989 and began building a career and a reputation as a pianist. Within a few years she had established relationships with Marian McPartland (appearing on her National Public Radio program Piano Jazz) and Lionel Hampton (who provided her with her first professional recording session on his 1995 For the Love of Music).

Piket has since established herself as an adventurous and versatile pianist, ready and able to try anything. Her albums (of which Domestic Harmony is the 13th) and performance projects have ranged from straight ahead to free jazz, from solo piano to big band, from chamber jazz ensemble with string quartet to the electric Alternating Current, and any number of other adventures as both leader and sidewoman. In addition, she maintains a working trio with Mintz, in which she has also begun to feature herself more prominently as a vocalist.

In the 2018 Down Beat Critics' Poll, Piket was voted Rising Star in the Organist category and placed 16th in Rising Star Piano, while in the publication's 2018 Readers' Poll she placed 8th in the Jazz Artist category, 7th in Piano, and 5th in Organ.
                                  (Billy Mintz and Roberta Piket) 

Piket will be performing Billy Mintz's music with several duos -- including saxophonist Virginia Mayhew, valve trombonist Mike Fahn, and Mintz himself -- at Mezzrow, NYC, on Thursday 1/16/20.

Other upcoming shows: the Roberta Piket Sextet celebrates the music of Marian McPartland, with special guest Karrin Allyson, at Flushing Town Hall, Friday 12/6; a set of duos with Virginia Mayhew at Maureen's Jazz Cellar, Nyack, NY, Sunday 12/15; the Roberta Piket Organ Trio plays the music of Billy Mintz (featuring tenor saxophonists Tony Malaby and John Gross with Mintz on drums) at Quinn's, Beacon, NY, Monday 5/4/20.

In addition, Piket will be a sidewoman on piano and organ with the Billy Mintz Band (also including Rich Perry on tenor saxophone, Adam Kolker on saxophones and woodwinds, Curtis Folkes on trombone, and Hilliard Greene on bass) at Balboa, Brooklyn, Wednesday 12/18; Quinn's, Beacon, NY Monday 12/23; iBeam, Brooklyn, Friday 12/27; and Smalls, NYC, Saturday 12/28.

Photography: John Abbott (Piket), Jason Kahn (Piket & Mintz)

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