G.F. Mlely – ReEntry
(JazCraft – 2000)
by Phyllis A. Lodge
ReEntry is pianist G. Francis Mlely’s answer to the doctors who told him that the wrist injury he sustained some years back would hamper his former playing ability. Call it a testimonial to the power of Mlely’s musical will.
To paraphrase the title of a Monk classic, Mlely’s piano is powerfully ‘on minor’. The CD notes call him two-fisted. I hear a spirit that is initially somber, like twilight, with a brightly complex delivery. That complexity involves rather than puts off the listener. He is as clear as a bell. Mlely walks the keyboard and strums it like a harp. He rolls it around in your ear like a bluesy summer evening after you’ve had that tasty meal, and just before you nod off on the front porch. Opening with It Ain’t Necessarily So, Mlely moves through the Gershwin classic like the expressive ambling of a deep thinker who triumphs over life.
Battle Hymn of the Republic is positively refreshing. The pianist’s hands converse with one another in animated, musical dialog. They maintain a gentle rapport between his creative impressions and the resultant outpourings of musical expression. Battle Hymn floats on a cloud rather than sloshes through trenches. Then Mlely carousels into a delightful original entitled Never Quite Say. This is the beauty of solo piano. It can be highly satisfying for the listener, because one experiences an unobstructed bird’s eye view of the pianist’s artistic spirit at the keyboard.
Threnody For An Unborn Child is a shining example of this. Mlely’s treatment of this original is a quiescent, assured anticipation of a beautiful spirit, and he closes the number with a series of triumphant, climactic chords of jubilant welcome. When he follows up with a very modest, calming version of Bess, You Is My Woman Now, it falls softly into perfect formation. Classics challenge the artist to distinguish their musical fingerprint after plunging into an abyss of countless others who have ‘been there’ and ‘said that’. After stating Bess… exquisitely, Mlely charms us with the classic, Secret Love. By now, Mlely’s style is in our heads as he plunges into an original, Fat Butterfly. Distinctive as its title, and equally as magical, Fat Butterfly snagged my ear. Mlely then follows up with All of You, which rings in warm, robust tones.
Mlely closes with a final original, Words We Say. It is a proudly executed number that Mlely handles with the bridled passion of a seasoned charioteer. He respects the emotional forces of his personal expression as he allows it to roam. And yet, he has a firm grip on the reins. Mlely allows the listener into his experience, into his musical garden.
G. Francis Mlely’s ReEntry may be heralding his re-emergence into the tantalizingly perilous world of music. It could just as easily be talking about a ReEntry into Earthly experience from a different musical dimension – one that is best explored with an insightful, powerful guide. Mlely is such a guide, and his ReEntry clearly harks to a streaming musical dimension.