Lazlo Gardony, born in Hungary but now a resident of Boston and a professor at Berklee, is the kind of outstanding, bread-and-butter jazz pianist we need more of. Dig Deeper, featuring his longstanding trio including John Lockwood on bass and Yoron Israel on drums, demonstrates not a talented local cat playing bop and Bill Evans but much more. Eight of the nine tunes here are original, and even the Gershwin warhorse “Summertime” is entirely remade as a gospel song with shifting time signatures. The originals exhibit the same fun sense of exploration—they are typically based about a strong vamp or a killer bass line, and they use the groove of popular music as often as they sound specifically like “jazz”.
But this is the jazz, with expressive improvisations emerging from the grooves and the sense of communication between the members of the group paramount. This is music made with an awareness of soul and rock, swing and gospel, but it is still made in the tradition of the great jazz trios. Gardony sounds less like Bill Evans or Bobby Timmons or Horace Silver than he does like an amalgam of Jarrett and maybe Cedar Walton—a modern jazz pianist whose playing is pianistic and carefully arranged. Gardony does not try to dazzle you with speed or volume, but his group simply delivers the pleasure of its own united front on attractive, catchy themes. Which is more than enough.