Conrad Gayle began playing piano when he was six in his native Toronto. Some of his earliest experiences performing in public were in church. Religious music has had a strong influence on his playing in terms of his passion while he has also developed his own individual style as a jazz pianist.
The Live Sessions was recorded during several engagements dating from 2009-2010. The first two selections, “How Great Are You Lord” and “Genesis,” feature Conrad Gayle as a solo pianist. His treatment of the simple but powerful melody of “How Great Are You Lord” is full of quiet but heartfelt emotion. “Genesis” starts with a brief but powerful exploration before becoming a minor blues. Gayle’s playing on this piece is thoughtful and impressionistic, with “Genesis” ending quite gently.
The next three selections, all standards, match the pianist in duets with guitarist Tom Juhas. “Killing Me Softly With His Song” is a likable pop tune that the duo transforms into a melodic jazz number. The interplay between the musicians brings out the best in both of them with Gayle’s tasteful accompaniment to Juhas’ solo being a highlight. “I Hear A Rhapsody” has Juhas taking the melody and a lengthy solo, gradually raising the intensity level. Gayle sounds inspired on this number, particularly when Juhas begins playing bass lines behind him. The lengthy “My Funny Valentine” starts out at a quiet volume but becomes a bit heated during the guitar solo before the duo closes the piece together quite peacefully.
Two numbers have Conrad Gayle joined by bassist Scott Kemp. “Like Someone In Love” gives the musicians an opportunity to cook over some fertile chord changes. Gayle’s improvisation is quite hypnotic while Kemp displays his fluency during his solo. They return for the thoughtful ballad “That’s What Friends Are For,” playing with strong communication and lyricism. The Live Sessions concludes with McCoy Tyner’s memorable “You Taught My Heart To Sing” which has Gayle performing a duet with bassist James McEleney. The pianist really digs into the melody and plays beautifully.
The music on The Live Sessions serves as an excellent showcase for the talents of Conrad Gayle.