Ann Tappan | Paintings pays homage to artists

New album gathers some of Montana’s best jazz players to lay down the sound

New Albums
Ann Tappan's recent album, Paintings
Ann Tappan’s recent album, Paintings, pays homage to the artists who have inspired the pianist.

Ann Tappan, a well-known jazz pianist from Manhattan, MT, has put out her umpteenth album with her own material and that of others. The educator and performer has played and collaborated with a who’s who of jazz greats, and teaches classical and jazz piano and jazz voice and improvisation to Montana youth at her home studio and in Bozeman.

She credits many artists, mostly painters, who have shown her a new way of looking at the world, and influenced her playing and composing. She’s gathered some of Montana’s best jazz players to lay down the sound.

On Pritchard and Mayer’s “Blue Boat Home,” for example, Tappan is joined by the incomparable queen of Montana jazz, M.J. Williams, on vocals, and Bob Bowman on acoustic bass. Bowman recently relocated to Montana, and fills the void left by the late Kelly Roberti, long-time member of the Tappan/Roberti/M.J. Williams Trio and Quartet. Tappan dedicates this album to the revered musician.

Her “Blues for a Bass Player” features crooning alto sax riffs from Jay Rattman and soft bass thrumming from Bowman. Tappan provides a sleepy, smoky-nightclub ambience, lightly toying with the rhythm as she trips expertly around the keyboard. Adam Greenberg adds light drums and cymbal.

Rob Kohler adds electric bass on Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now,” and Tappan solos on her “Break of Day.” She awakens the sound with bell-like tones, and shows off her innate ear for gorgeous melodic structure.

Carla Bley’s “Utviklingssang” starts with a chatty bass solo, then the pianist enters with a thoughtful melody that slowly builds, like footsteps nearing, till the bass answers with strings snapping like rubber bands. Nice!

“North East” finds the pianist and Greenberg laying down a bossa-nova vibe on her piece, with Craig Hall burning up the arrangement on electric guitar. Tappan rocks out on the rhythm, then sneaks in lightly like a bird to play a fluttering interlude. Her pacing combines lots of classical elements within the jazz format, creating yet another dynamic arrangement. That’s no mean feat, folks. You won’t be able to resist dancin’ to this one!

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– Mariss McTucker