Ben Geyer, The Acadian Orogeny

by Sylvannia Garutch

Ben Geyer is a pianist and composer that offers a great depth to his unaffected composing style. Pure in his playing technique Geyer’s second album The Acadian Orogeny (2018) features original compositions by Geyer except the seminal “Giant Steps,” by John Coltrane.  Joined by bassist Peter Dominguez and drummer Zaire Darden. The recording transpired in Cleveland.  The inspiration behind the album is a geological mountain building event, the Acadian orogeny, which stretches roughly from New Hampshire to Kentucky. Geyer explained he “migrated along that very path the day after the title composition was completed.”  He describes it as “an exploration of topographies, where each composition traces a different path and vantage point.”

“Reminiscing” opens with Geyer exploring the topography of solo piano as he plays a beautiful intro. The trio unfolds the straight-eight composition, with multiple band hits and thematic rhythms that are developed over the course of the melody. Geyer’s touch on the piano is a subtle intensity, he commands an introspective tone that has energy, but never heavy handed or uncontrolled. The composition has many feel and color changes. The trio is interactive and during Geyer’s solo, Darden and Dominguez are clearly supportive and match Geyer’s colors and rhythmic directions.  A thoughtful opening track that sets up the theme into the rest of the musical journey of exploration.

“High Tide” has a more aggressive and darker tone that is given a grooving straight eight feel with a hip funky piano figure that is developed. The composition is sound structurally and melodically, presenting a strong compositional force, due to its almost mathematical balance of repeated figures, hits and flowing melodies. Dominguez’s bass solo captures the mood of the composition and develops the melodic ideas nicely. Geyer’s chordal work draws from the post-bop tradition, while he builds his solo on repeated riffs and trilled figures that build throughout the form.

Thoughtful, pensive and at times sinewy in their interpretations of Geyer’s originals, the trio is a well-oiled cooperative, banded together through their collective mind.  Each player interactive, and supporting the overall movement of each tune.  With his last outing The Ben Geyer Sextet, The Narrative (2018), Geyer introduced the jazz audience to his powerfully emotive and thematic playing, with the release of The Acadian Orogeny it is a vehicle that puts Geyer front and center in the modern creative jazz idiom.

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