At ten minutes to 8 last night, the Nashville Jazz Workshop was abuzz. The 2013 Snap on 2 & 4 season was about to start with a bang. That bang was pianist, composer and arranger Pat Coil.
A seasoned performer himself (his credits include work with Michael McDonald, Pat Metheny, Vince Gill, Larry Carleton, Barbra Streisand and so many more), Coil surrounded himself with a truly all-star band: Mark Douthit on saxophones (Michael McDonald, Toni Braxton, India Arie) Danny O’Lannerghty on bass (Amy Grant, Donna Summer, Buddy Greene), and new Nashville transplants Danny and Beth Gottlieb. Nashville jazz fans will surely rejoice to have Danny Gottlieb, a member of the original Pat Metheny Group, residing here. And they will be equally welcoming to his wife, who proved to be not only an astounding percussionist but also a dynamic performer.
Coil performed mostly original pieces, with a few notable exceptions including an explosive “All Blues” that featured a dueling percussion solo between the Gottliebs that sent the audience into a frenzy. First set standouts were the Coil originals “All Access,” a burning swing tune that brought the energy of the group to a ferocious peak, and “Solace,” a ballad after which you could actually hear the audience sigh.
The second set brought the most tender moment of the evening. Coil performed a solo piano piece he composed in response to the tragedy in Newtown, Conn. Entitled “Tears,” the piece was at once beautiful and haunting. The melody was an almost-lullaby – a lullaby for lost innocence.
The second set also featured a groovy Herbie Hancock tune and a song dedicated to Coil’s former teacher and mentor, “One for Rich.” The group closed out the night with a new original, “Signs of Life.” Aptly titled, there were plenty of signs of life on that bandstand, even at the end of the night. Coil turned them loose, and Douthit, O’Lannerghty and Gottlieb demonstrated once again what makes them the all-stars. Douthit’s story-like solo grew to the highest height during this piece, and O’Lannerghty played funky riffs and showed off his chops, but the solo was also extremely melodic. Gottlieb had the audience transfixed during his solo, and it was easy to tell that the Nashville audience was simply giddy to call him one of their own.
Pat Coil is one of the most virtuosic pianists in Nashville. But, with Coil, it’s never virtuosity for virtuosity’s sake. Always tasteful, he can immediately shift between burning the keys at lightning speeds and delivering slow, intentional lines. And the effect is marvelous. His solos are both free and calculated, technical yet emotive. And, thanks to the Jazz Workshop, Nashville jazz fans can know the joy that is hearing this pianist performing his own music on his own terms.
Coil’s next performance is Jan. 17 at the Garden Brunch Cafe in Nashville. Jazz fans should make every effort to catch this show.