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"Sneak Preview" hatOLOGY 2000



Pianist Simon Nabatov enlivens the traditional piano trio format with this ambitious new effort titled, Sneak Preview. Along with the world beating rhythm section of bassist Mark Helias and drummer Tom Rainey, the Estonia native pursues Monk-ish accents and odd-metered rhythmic structures on the playful yet complex piece dedicated to soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy aptly titled, "For Steve". Here, Nabatov exhibits muscularity and fluency while directing the band through subtle shifts in tempo and catchy hooks while Helias and Rainey provide the solid and thoughtful underpinnings. The pianist is somewhat frisky as he mimics Helias' angular lines with a lower register attack while the band alternates between bright, orderly frameworks and keen improvisational speak via lush patterns and refined melancholia. On "The Lake", Tom Rainey provides soft textures via his sensitive utilization of cymbals as Nabatov reaffirms the implied serenity with delicate block chords and intersecting lines as each player adds warmth and accent to the embodiment of this most intriguing composition.

The title track, "Sneak Preview" while dedicated to Mark Helias boasts a mid-tempo swing groove amid linear chord progressions that loosely mirrors traditional Kansas City R&B motifs augmented with Bill Evans-like modern jazz piano voicings. Throughout, Nabatov works the inside and outside while consistently evolving and reinventing the respective themes with panache, color and glistening technical savvy amid the upbeat hustle and bustle of a sympathetic rhythm section.

With Sneak Preview these musicians extend familiar concepts while enabling the listener to grasp the atypical or novel approach in somewhat of an auspicious manner. Hence, we are presented with cunning and serious-minded invention that traverses a transparent course as it all sounds so unaffected! Recommended.

Glenn Astarita

Jazz Times December 2000

On Sneak Preview, pianist Simon Nabatov demonstrates why his playing has proven so simpatico with Steve Lacy's: a penchant for juxtaposing disparate musical elements, for melodies that scramble across the changes, often using a tritone as a walking stick. These perfromances bring Nabatov, the composer, to the fore.

Bill Bennett


...Immer weiss dieser Wunderpianist mit den verschiedenen formalen Mitteln zwischen sensibel-lyrischen Klangfigurationen und emotional und agressiv wirbelnden Tonkaskaden und Akkordballungen überzeugend und kompetent umzugehen, alles mit einem im Untergrund stets spürbaren Puls zu durchtränken.

Johannes Anders

Stadt Revue June 2000

...Der Jazz wird hier aufrichtig geherzt und geliebt: mal mit impressionistischen Tondichtungen, dann wieder mit geglücktem BeBop...Es ist so klar und mühelos gespielt, dass man sich unwillkürlich fragt, warum es nicht mehr davon gibt.

Bruce Carnevale


Rate Your Music 2002

Extreme virtuosity combines with unique compositions and spontaneous improvisation for an exceptional trio album "Sneak Preview" is Russian piano virtuoso Simon Nabatov's only recording for the Swiss HatOLOGY label. The album presents seven original compositions by Nabatov, recorded in trio format with bassist Mark Helias and drummer Tom Rainey (with whom he has already recorded several albums. The most striking aspect of the music is Nabatov's extreme command of piano technique and his incredibly complex compositions. These traits, combined with the trio's tight interplay and willingness to color outside the lines creates music that is deep and many-layered, but also exciting, fresh, and very personal. The first track is a good example of the trio at its best. "For Steve," a tribute to Steve Lacy, opens with a beautiful rubato section that suddenly turns to become a dense, dissonant melodic fragment that sounds inspired by Monk's "Well You Needn't." Nabatov seems able to extrapolate endlessly on small melodic motifs, aided by the fact that his two hands seem to function as separate instruments at times. Helias and Rainey lay down a solid swing but rarely play repetitive patterns. Instead their playing is highly reactive and they are able to find the brief holes in Nabatov's lines where they can add appropriate punctuation. "One-Track Mind" takes a more sparse approach, but soon launches into a sort of gritty funk where Nabatov displays his ability to double his lines with both hands. "The Lake" appears to be an improvised piece with the band taking an even more sparse approach. Here Nabatov sticks to open, minimalistic harmonic ideas and lets Helias and Rainey define the mood of the piece. "Let's Go Baby" is possibly Nabatov's most interesting composition on the record. The piece opens with knotty counterpoint then takes sudden, dramatic twists and moves through a number of moods, styles, and time signatures. The band handles the composition with precision but but lets things shift into more free territory as Nabatov's solo grows gradually more free and intense. "Industrial Strength" is another compositional highlight. The tune opens with an extended impressionistic intro where Helias performs the melody on bowed bass, but then shifts abruptly into a happily modern groove where both Helias and Rainey are given ample solo opportunity. "Sneak Preview" delves into a slightly bluesier approach and recalls Monk or Herbie Nichols (one of Nabatov's main influences). "Happy Buchki Break Tune" closes the album on an incredible note, and functions almost as an encore. The tune begins with an almost 6 minute solo piano intro that draws heavily on stride and ragtime (recalling Art Tatum), but of course blends it with modern harmony and rhythmic ideals. It's an overt display of Nabatov's prodigious virtuosity, but it seldom feels gratuitous or tasteless. Rather, Nabatov uses his technique in the service of the music, and the result is a brilliant piece that nods to tradition but also adds a unique twist. It's almost shocking when Helias and Rainey come back in and the piece shifts to an unmistakably modern feel. Just as suddenly, they switch back to a bouncy stride feel for the very last minute of the tune. There are very few weak spots on the album. Nabatov uses his incredible technical prowess and a wide variety of influences to create a very unique sound for this trio. His compositions are complex and precise, but the band is equally comfortable playing with freedom and spontaneity. This is music that will be exciting and even shocking on first listen, but also holds up to many repeated listenings and close scrutiny and study. The trio is an exceptional group and this album is one of their best.

Johannes Anders