November 01, 1982 12:00 PM

Tommy Flanagan

“Tasty” is a word jazz musicians often use to describe playing that adds to basic finesse and shading those rarer qualities that create trenchant, piquant and sensuous music. The word has been applied to the piano playing of Tommy Flanagan, 52, since his novice days in Detroit. A self-effacing sideman much of his career, Flanagan went solo in 1978 after more than a decade as Ella Fitzgerald’s accompanist. This trio session, never released before, was recorded around the time he left Ella. It unites him with his Motor City bandsman, drummer Elvin Jones, and acoustic bassist George Mraz, whose swinging, ringing touch is one of the most distinctive on his instrument. Ballads such as How High the Moon and It Never Entered My Mind alternate with romps like the title cut, written by Charlie Parker. Flanagan’s single-note runs never sound forced, and his richly voiced chords skate like sun on a tumbling brook. Indeed, his piano sends one searching through nature for metaphorical comparison. Which may be why so many musicians say simply that Flanagan is one of the tastiest pianists around.

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