David Cook takes to Pathway with precision, engaging from the outset with a classic trio set-up that jumps with energy. Together with drummer Mark Ferber and bassist Matt Clohesy, Cook, a pianist and composer and different sort of American Idol, takes to his debut recording with a mind to “write some tunes and get out of the way!”
Cook comes from the New York scene with a wealth of experience. He’s played with musicians like Lizz Wright, Donny McCaslin, Lew Soloff, Sunny Jain, Alan Ferber, and Dennis Chambers. He even played with N-Sync and Justin Timberlake. This wealth of experience comes coated with a pop sensibility that finds its way right in the beautiful middle of Cook’s jazzy arrangements. There’s a listenable quality, but the songs are anything but straightforward.
Pathway opens with a track called “The Thing.” A more apt title is hard to imagine, as this beast springs out all John Carpenter-like in search of a Kurt Russell flamethrower. Everyone’s gunnin’ it, with Cook pulling out patterns and Ferber tearing through in a mass of cymbals and rolling drums. Clohesy seems to want to pull it together, but “The Thing” is off like a shot out of New Orleans and the performers do well to just get out of the way.
The guys have a hold on things by the time “Fresh Remnants” rolls around, but even then it’s hard to imagine they’ve recovered fully. This Pathway seems dangerous, after all, but Cook and Co. are more than ready. The cut is a nod to Fred Hersch’s trio and is set over an angular form for good measure.
Even with all the monsters and things rolling around on Pathway, Cook, Clohesy and Ferber listen to each other carefully. The most cursory of spins reveals a trio in awe of the form and, as such, their approach to the songs is one couched in deep reverence.
When Cook takes to Duke Ellington’s “Come Sunday,” it is, as expected, with a solid dose of awe. His chording lays out the introduction intimately, while vibrant flourishes of emotion come around later in the piece. Ellington wrote the song for alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges as a part of “Black, Brown and Beige,” so it stands to reason that Cook would take a step back and honour the proceedings properly. His playing, dramatic but never showy, illustrates just how much the pianist cares about his art.
Pathway is a celebration, a showcase of loyalty to the art of jazz. David Cook wonderment is laid bare within every composition and his trio’s tendency to leap out of the way is evidence of the belief that there’s nothing, nothing at all in this world, bigger than a great song.