Talking before our live session with pianist Christian Sands and his trio, I told him his former boss, bassist Christian McBride, formed his New Jawn without a pianist because Sands is irreplaceable. He laughed out loud and said, "I like the way you think!" After hearing his phenomenal trio in our Seattle studios, that idea may not be so farfetched.
Christian Sands' new album Facing Dragons is his second in two years, and just his second as a leader. It's clear the role suits him. The new release is almost entirely original music by Sands, and shows a pianist rooted in jazz tradition, confidently expressing his own musical personality.
He's been working up to it his whole life, playing piano almost from the first day he could reach it. Sands' natural piano talent developed through classical training, but his curiosity and creativity led him directly to jazz improvisation. His songs are familiar, but fresh, and he ran through a mini-gamut of his music.
Beginning with the muscular groove "Rebel Music", the trio next explored the Beatles hit "Yesterday" in the style of Erroll Garner. Sands' is the Creative Ambassador to the Erroll Garner Jazz Project, which works to celebrate the legendary pianist and release new and remastered recordings. It was Garner's version of the McCartney tune that informs Christian Sands' version.
Yasushi Nakamura (bass) and Jonathan Barber (drums) had room to show off their incredible talent in the trio. They were well featured on their third song, "Reaching for the Sun" from Sands' previous album Reach. There's an obvious love for playing and also sharing music from this emerging pianist, even as a leader he's happiest as part of a team.