Pianist Aaron Diehl Exudes Sophistication & Lyricism on
The Vagabond: Available February 14 via Mack Avenue Records
First Record Since 2015 Features Mix of Originals and Standards Alongside Longtime Collaborators, Bassist Paul Sikivie and Drummer Gregory Hutchinson
Aaron Diehl’s elegant pianism and musical sophistication take center stage once again on his third album for Mack Avenue Records, The Vagabond. His previous outings for the label—The Bespoke Man’s Narrative (2013), which reached No. 1 on the JazzWeek Jazz Chart; and Space, Time, Continuum (2015) featuring jazz masters Benny Golson and Joe Temperley—have already established him as one of the jazz world’s most vibrant stylists.
The Vagabond, featuring Paul Sikivie on double bass, and Gregory Hutchinson on drums, includes original tunes by Diehl, as well as music by past jazz greats, John Lewis and Sir Roland Hanna, along with Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev and American composer Philip Glass. That range of repertoire suggests a sort of musical double life, a state of affairs that helped give rise to the album’s title.
“I have always been fascinated in the piano’s range of tone and color,” says Diehl. “This is partly rooted in my earlier interest in classical piano literature. Regardless of genre, I try to maintain an awareness of sound and nuance. Having opportunities to work with Philip Glass or perform George Gershwin’s ‘Concert in F’ with the New York Philharmonic has encouraged me to broaden my approach to pianism. They have placed me in situations completely out of my comfort zone.”
As a 2007 graduate of the Juilliard School, he had studied with Russian virtuoso Oxana Yablonskaya. “She always reminds me about my tearing up when she played during our lessons,” he remembers, “with such a deep, rich sound. She knew that I had a sensitivity to certain musical qualities. I’d often think, ‘Wow, I wish I could do that.’”
As it turns out, he could. Yet, his focus at the time was necessarily on jazz performance, studying with Kenny Barron and Eric Reed (Diehl also worked closely with Fred Hersch in recent years). The invitation to interpret music by Glass, like the opportunity to perform with the Philharmonic—which was facilitated through its music director at the time, Alan Gilbert—came as a pleasant opportunity…and a real challenge. It has all paid off.
“With Glass, I’m still finding how to maintain the integrity of that sound world, and also incorporate my own ideas into his language,” says the pianist. “On the other hand, as a musician also interested in incorporating African-American musical traditions, I’m discovering various approaches to playing as a soloist with orchestras in that context,” says Diehl, summing up the situation, “It’s a bit of an itinerant existence.” Hence, the album title, The Vagabond.
Yet, his roots run deep. He was the winner of the 2011 Cole Porter Fellowship from the American Pianists Association; the 2013 recipient of the Jazz Journalists Association Award for Up-And-Coming Artist; and the 2014 Monterey Jazz Festival Commission Artist, one of the youngest musicians to receive this honor, for which he composed “Three Streams of Expression,” dedicated to pianist and composer John Lewis. Earlier, in 2002, Diehl was awarded Outstanding Soloist at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Essentially Ellington Competition, after which he was invited to tour Europe with the Wynton Marsalis Septet. More recently, Diehl served as the long-time musical director for GRAMMY® Award-winning vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant.
Upcoming Aaron Diehl U.S. Performances:
January 18 – 19 | Cincinnati Music Hall | Cincinnati, OH
January 23 | Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center | Alexandria, VA
January 24 – 25 | Mezzrow Jazz Club | New York, NY
January 31 | 560 Music Center | St. Louis, MO
February 6 | Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre | Ann Arbor, MI
February 7 | Jordan Hall | Boston, MA
February 8 | The Bushnell | Hartford, CT
February 20 – 21 | Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts | Chicago, IL
February 23 | The Phillips Collection | Washington, DC
March 6 | Acadiana Center for the Arts | Lafayette, LA
March 10 | Thomasville Center for the Arts | Thomasville, GA
March 11 | Curtis M. Phillips Center for Performing Arts | Gainesville, FL
March 21 | Bob Carr Theater | Orlando, FL
April 18 | Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts | Katonah, NY
May 1 | Van Singel Fine Arts Center | Byron Center, MI
May 7 | La Jolla Music Society | San Diego, CA
May 15 | Severance Hall | Cleveland, OH
May 24 | The Hochstein School | Rochester, NY
Aaron Diehl · The Vagabond
Mack Avenue Records · Release Date: February 14, 2020
For more information on Aaron Diehl, please visit: AaronDiehl.com