The “collective” is a piano trio, with some subtle electronics added—Wurlitzer and Nord lead 2—along with a dash of electro-percussion. When you talk piano trio and equality of each member's input, you start with Bill Evans and run through Keith Jarrett and on to Brad Mehldau. Lackner and company definitely fit into the Mehldau mold: a mix of subtlety and insistence, understatement and delicate beauty underlain by a firm melodic path. The equality part of the group dynamic is increased on Pilgrim by the Songwriting contributions of bassist Derek Nievergelt and drummer Robert Perkins. On Sign of the Times they co-penned only one tune with Lackner—”Sister Love.” On the present recording Nievergelt contributes five of his own tunes, and Perkins collaborates with Lackner and/or Nievergelt on four more. Whereas Sign of the Times drew from composers like Gershwin, Bjork, Mal Waldron and Prince (how's that for a mix?), Pilgrim stays with mostly group-penned tunes, with the exception of two marvelous covers of songs written by the Canadian singer/songwriter Feist—the lovely, fragile “Lonely, Lonely” and the somber “Let It Die.” Part of the strength of this set is the sustained quiet mood. The sound is introspective and understated— no flash or pyrotechics—with lots of breathing room and first-rate musicianship, reminiscent (delving into the pop world) of Bob Dylan's John Wesley Harding (Columbia, '67) or Van Morrison's Astral Weeks (Warner Brothers, '68). A sound that caresses, seduces, and lasts.
"Lackner may be the first established pianist to come from the Mehldau school. With a contemporary approach, he helps give the piano trio a much-needed facelift."
-John Kelman, AllAboutJazz.com
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