by Sylvannia Garutch
Pianist George Cables has been recording as a leader or co-leader since 1975. He was initially taught piano by his mother and garnered his training at the High School of Performing Arts and later at Mannes College (1963–65). Cables formed the Jazz Samaritans at the age of 18 – a band that included Billy Cobham, Steve Grossman, and Clint Houston. His career has steadily taken a rising trajectory of greatness, with his latest endeavor I’m All Smiles, featuring Essiet Essiet on bass and Victor Lewis on drums highlights ten tunes, all standards with one Cables original, “Celebration.” “Monk’s Mood” is a solo piano track. At 74 years old Cables is showing no signs of slowing down.
“Speak No Evil” finds Cables in a celebratory mood as he plays with the well-known Wayne Shorter melody, adding fills and playing with the rhythm. The feel laid down by Essiet and Lewis is a deep swing, as one would expect, and the result is a fine rendition of this modern standard. Cables’ solo resonates with modern and traditional colors and harmonic techniques. His use of melodic development utilizing motifs is of note. Cables’ is a master at improvised melodies that have common shapes through the harmonies. The mixture of chordal structures and single notes is balanced and build the solos to a climax. Essiet and Lewis are a steady foundation, allowing Cables to push and pull his lines for great tension and release. Lewis turns in a musical drum solo with interesting hits by Cables and Essiet.
“Bésame Mucho” is a stunning version of this classic tune. With a funky Latin setting, the trio grooves deeply on this one. Again, Cables adds lines and band parts to the melody that give the arrangement a sense of freshness while still clearly delivering the melody. Cables’ solo is in top form, this is perhaps some of the best playing on the date. Cables keeps the melody in focus throughout his improvisation as his expansive runs embellish the harmony. Cables and Essiet have a musical conversation that is always interactive and joyful.
Its certainly easy to ascertain why Cables has been a lasting force in the jazz idiom. His melodic improvisations are easily enjoyed with a deep sense of fluidity infusing each tune. On his latest offering I’m All Smiles, it certainly reflects the joy brought to each tune, and the joy when listening. Once again Cables proves his versatility as a player and aptitude for a swinging trio sound.