If anyone is going to succeed in rescuing good music from the ghetto called “early jazz”, it will be the pianist Andrew Oliver. I wouldn’t go so far as one critic, who claimed that Oliver was “almost punk-rock” in his approach, but there’s definitely something about his combination of technical brilliance and go-for-broke dynamism that just grabs you.
No Local Stops is a follow-up to last year’s glowingly received Complete Morton Project with clarinettist David Horniblow. Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton turns up again here, but this time as one of many piano virtuosos of the early 20th century, among them James P Johnson, Seger Ellis and Willie “the Lion” Smith. The styles vary, from pre-1914 ragtime to Harlem stride of the 1930s. Oliver grasps them all so thoroughly that he adapts, combines, modifies and extends the originals – even includes a composition of his own – and not a note or gesture sounds out of place.
Among this collection of notables, Morton still comes out on top, for his mastery of form if nothing else. But if the skill, intricacy and sheer variety of these 18 pieces tell us anything it’s that “early” doesn’t mean “primitive”.