Jul 5, 2020
It’s been a pleasure to watch pianist Christian Sands grow as a composer, musician and bandleader. By the time he was ready to graduate from Manhattan School of Music, he had released three trio albums and been nominated for a Latin Grammy as part of the School’s Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, led by Bobby Sanabria. Tabbed by Christian McBride to be part of his quintet Insight Straight, Sands quickly became known as one of finest young pianists of his generation.
Be Water is his fourth release on the Mack Avenue label, and it finds him to mature as an artist. His compositions show him willing to take chances, and the band he has assembled for the sessions is top notch. Anchored by long-time collaborator Yasushi Nakamura (bass) and drummer Clarence Penn, he continues to bring in ace players like guitarist Marvin Sewell, saxophonist Marcus Strickland, trumpeter Sean Jones and trombonist Steve Davis. On one piece, the ensemble is supplemented by a string quartet featuring Sara Caswell, Tomoko Akaboshi, Benni von Gutzeit and Eleanor Norton.
Sands is more than just a top jazz musician – he is a jazz fan. Out conversation is peppered with his enthusiasm for his musicians, and for others he he has had a chance to work with, including drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr. and singer Gregory Porter. Further, he has spent much of the past few years helping preserve the legacy of pianist Erroll Garner, both by performing Garner’s works with his High-Wire Trio (with bassist Luques Curtis, and drummer Terreon Gully) and serving as Creative Ambassador for the Erroll Garner Jazz Project at the University of Pittsburgh.
Podcast 750 is my conversation with Christian Sands, as we talk about his many projects, including the making of Be Water. Musical selections from the album include one of two songs entitled “Be Water”, plus “Still”, a tune featuring Marvin Sewell, and a cover of the Blind Faith classic “Can’t Find My Way Home.” From Nat King Cole & Me, his recording with Gregory Porter, comes “Pick Yourself Up.”