With an eclectic whirlwind of a resume that includes work on hit Broadway shows, an Emmy nomination for co-writing the theme to “Dateline,” MD and keyboardist for late tap legend Gregory Hines and work with everyone from Liza Minelli, Freddie Hubbard and Donna Summer, it was only a matter of time before composer, pianist and drummer Rick Cutler really cut loose in his solo career and presented a freewheeling showcase of everything he can do in a single collection.
After 15 years mostly focused on piano works (with a few vocals and percussive elements chiming in), that inspiring, multi-faceted journey arrives with Women & Children – a colorful, often lyrical, sometimes spiritual, alternately grooving and meditative 12 track romp exploring the multiple muses of his life. Fans of Cutler’s long-established beautiful solo piano flow will gravitate first towards graceful ivory-centered tracks like “Green,” “Hymn #4” and the truly hypnotic (thus perfectly titled) “Trance.”
Those are interspersed among more dynamic ventures, including two tracks spotlighting the edgier emotions of his electric piano - the simmering, then fiery opening track “The Blues Matters” and the moody title track, originally penned decades ago for the late jazz violinist Noel Pointer. While well known as a pianist who studied early on with Chick Corea, Cutler’s first instrument was actually drums – and you just know he’s been champing at the bit to cut loose and groove and hit the hi-hat as he does on the lively jazz quartet pieces dedicated to his in-laws, “One For Ed” and “Dee Too,” which feature the brilliant Mark Soskin on piano.
Another inspired idea is pairing with two very different woodwinds on two of the most lyrical and thoughtful gems, the easy swaying “Paris at Midnight” (with Lawrence Feldman on flute and Soskin again on piano) and the exotic, Eastern tinged reflection “Japanese Mist,” a lovely duet with Cutler on piano and Dave Wechsler on wooden flute. The lone cover, of Tom Waits’ heartfelt poetic narrative song “Time,” features the compelling, crystalline vocals of Charlotte Durkee.