Richie Beirach: The Snow Leopard (alfa / Evidence / Harmonia mundi)
This outing by pianist Richie Beirach has much more variety than his usual sessions. In addition to some introspective pieces, there are also some cookers and quite a few surprises. Beirach is joined by bassist George Mraz, drummer Billy Hart, and (on three of the ten selections) violinist Gregor Huebner. He turns “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” into a minor-toned piece, reworks “Naima,” digs into Bill Evans’ stark and haunting “Peace Piece,” revives John Coltrane’s rarely performed “Expression,” interprets a couple classical pieces (including one by Bartók) and contributes a trio of diverse originals. The overall results are consistently intriguing and always holds one’s interest. Highly recommended.