“Unicycle Man”

 

“A lyrical, thoughtful, relaxing meeting of mutually appreciative improvisers whose time is timeless”- NAT HENTOFF

“Since vibraphone is not all that common an instrument, it’s not often I get to hear a new CD from a vibist.  And, even more of a rarity is when it is a collection as enjoyable as Ted Piltzecker’s UNICYCLE MAN. Great tunes and great playing by a truly all-star line-up. This made my afternoon.” – GARY BURTON

“Ted Piltzecker is an ‘Original’ – one of my favorite composers” – CHUCK MANGIONE

“Unicycle Man” gives us all a chance to hear……as we should……the great playing and composing talent of Ted Piltzecker. It’s always a delight to know that a former member of my Quintet is going great guns on his own. Well done, Ted.” – GEORGE SHEARING

Unicycle Man Musicians:

Ted Piltzecker, vibraphone
Bob Mintzer, saxophone
James Williams, piano
Dave Meade, drums
Harvie Swartz, bass

Compositions:

1. Buffalo Dance (5:00)
2. Thea (5:59)
3. Tango for an Elegant Man (6:01)
4. Unicycle Man (5:41)
5. Ouray (6:12)
6. Conundrum (7:34)
7. Take a Moment (5:28)
8. There Is No Greater Love (6:22)
9. Hometown (4:55)

All compositions by Ted Piltzecker, Copyright 1996 Corner Mushroom Music ASCAP except There is No Greater Love, Bantam Music Inc.

Recorded at Eastside Sound, New York City
Engineered by Nick Prout
Mixed by Nick Prout and Ted Piltzecker except Tango for an Elegant Man mixed by Will Spencer and Ted Piltzecker
Mastered at Solid Sound, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI
Extra Percussion by Joe Passaro
City Photos by Ken Horowitz / Country Photo by David Bagby
Equilibrium Logo by Rita Blitt
Produced by Ted Piltzecker
P and C 1996 Corner Mushroom Music ASCAP, All Rights Reserved

Special Thanks To: Susan, Thea and Caj, The Musicians, Michael Udow, Nick Prout, Ken Horowitz, David Bagby, Rita and Irwin Blitt, Jim Catalano, A.W. Dick, Will Spencer, Will Rivera, and Mom for that first vibraphone

Ted Piltzecker plays Musser vibraphones exclusively and uses mallets by Mike Balter.

Buffalo Dance – This title might conjure up images of a scene in the Western Plains. Actually it reflers to a time when I was in college and used to travel from Rochester to Buffalo to play gigs with a wonderful Latin band. Everybody in the room danced all the time – I loved it!

Thea – This song was written one day after my daughter’s birth on a cross-town bus while returning from the hospital. During the session we recorded it as a sweet little waltz, just as intended. When the band went into the booth to listen to the take, I noticed that James Williams was still at the piano, and still “messing” with the tune. James is from the South, and has a deep-rooted gospel background. When I heard what he was doing I thought ‘yeah’ and forgot about the waltz idea. We immediately went back in and recorded this version.

Tango for an Elegant Man – Originally written for big band and four cellos, this is a pianoless quartet version. It is a way of saying thank you to a friend whom I respect a great deal.

Unicycle Man – Balancing is a series of corrections. When the adjustments become subtle enough, one stays upright and the illusion of equilibrium is achieved. It is a interesting place to be – a pleasant blend of danger and control. Of course, riding that ultimate fine line is an impossibility. I’ve been been riding a unicycle for forty years, and the activity remains metaphorical for so many things in my life.

Ouray – Chief Ouray, the great leader of the Ute Indians, was caught in a sad compromise between concern for his tribe and the dissolution of their culture.

Conundrum – A conundrum is a puzzle – a perplexing situation. It is a also the name of a natural hot spring at an altitude of 10,000 feet nestled way back in the Rocky Mountains. (It’s puzzling to me why I don’t spend more time in these places) This song is a conundrum.

Take A Moment – Some say, “stop and smell the roses.” Others, “breathe deeply and consciously.” This is how I say it.

There Is No Greater Love – Straight ahead! Harvie thought it would be a good idea to warm up with a standard. I agreed.

Hometown – For some, hometown represents a sense of community. Its importance increases greatly after parenthood.

Reviews:
JAZZ PLAYER MAGAZINE

Review by Kim Richmond

I confess. Vibraphone is not one of my favorite instruments. My list of those I enjoy listening to at length is very short, but I must add to that list Ted Piltzecker. He is not only a technically-capable vibist, but has fresh arranging and compositional ideas. He has here a wonderful product in this CD (Unicycle Man).
Piltzecker has assembled a superior supporting cast. Bob Mintzer, on tenor and soprano saxophones, who has proved himself a superlative arranger/composer, is one of the best of the New York crop of tenor players. Harvie Swartz (bass) and Dave Meade (drums) support and solo excellently. But who provides as extra-good foundation for most of the music on this CD, and pushes it into a higher dimension, is pianist James Williams. On the one piece where he does not play, although everyone’s performances are good, he is missed. As far as I’m concerned, performance-wise, Williams is the unsung star of the recording.
Joe Passaro is mentioned (as extra percussion) in small print in the side credits. If he is playing all of the percussion parts (they could have been done by drummer Dave Meade as overdubs), he deserves a good measure of credit. On the selections that include percussion, this is a main ingredient, and is excellently performed, with great style and feeling.
The recording sound is exceptionally noteworthy. Though the performances are wonderful, it is the arrangements and compositions which are the most outstanding elements on this project. I especially admire the introductions. All are originals by Piltzecker except No Greater Love, which was placed next to the last on the CD.
The liner notes are good brief observations by the leader about each selection, (except for the last track) but I would like to know something about Piltzecker himself. Each selection of the CD is quite unique and deserves individual mention, and I have five favorites out of the nine tracks. The first is an ideal opening number, Buffalo Dance, a medium-up Latin salsa. It is eased into with percussion, the tenor saxophone melody threading in over a rhythm pattern. Vibes and piano play the release section. which leads into the solos. Mintzer’s tenor sounds relaxed and hip, his solo has good structure with some interesting cross rhythms. Throughout the album, Piltzecker’s vibes sound especially good: excellent microphone placement and pickup. The interlude features a cross rhythm clapping pattern which leads to more tenor improvisation and then back to the head.
A word about Mintzer: he almost always solos with interesting content, but when the rhythm section settles into a funk groove for a length of time, he sometimes gets sucked into playing clichés.
The second favorite of mine is Thea. For what started as a sweet waltz written for Piltzecker’s daughter, this tune turns out to be, for me, the Pièce de résistance of the album, thanks to James Williams. Piltzecker’s liner notes state: “During the session we recorded it as a sweet little waltz, just as intended. When the band went into the booth to listen to the take, I noticed that James Williams was still at the piano, and still messing with the tune. James is from the South, and has a deep-rooted gospel background. When I heard what he was doing I thought ‘Yeah!’ and forgot about waltz idea. We immediately went back in and recorded this version.” Williams’ comping is a delight, subtly accommodating and working in a few of the original more dense chords betwixt his gospel interpretations. Even beneath Swartz’ excellent bass solo, Williams continues his full, but soft gospel style.
Another that vies for my very favorite is the closing Hometown. This is the tune about which I would have most enjoyed some comment on the liner. It is an appealing melody on a Latin bossa groove. Again, the percussion playing is important and outstanding. One bothersome element, is the uncharacteristic use of synthesizer (string sound) chords on the intro. A choice section of this piece has the entire band playing a single chord in a jutting rhythm that builds in intensity, underpinning a fine Dave Meade drum solo.
The most unique composition is Conundrum, another straight eighth bossa. Again we hear an inventive introduction setting up the melodic statements that are contained in several sections, at the end of which is a short, odd-metered interlude.
The title tune, Unicycle Man, is a clever piece which relates to Piltzecker’s philosophy regarding his art. He has been riding a unicycle for almost thirty years. There’s a great photo on the CD cover of him riding. In the liner notes he writes. “Balancing is a series of corrections. It is an interesting place to be – a pleasant blend of danger and control.” I think that’s why I personally am drawn to Piltzecker’s music. The composition is characterized by start and stop figures and features a very inventive arrangement. After a great vibraphone solo, the rhythm section starts to groove (even eighths) behind the tenor. On Mintzer’s third chorus, the start and stop rhythm pattern recurs, which eventually sets up a double-time swing with walking bass. Then the tenor is left to improvise with drums only, followed by another ensemble figure which catapults into the piano solo over swing time and walking bass. An interlude of the start and stop figure features the drums and percussion ( which is again a very important element here). I love the low dense final ending chord.
Although the above describes my favorite tracks, all of the tunes have special merit in their composition and arrangement. I hope we hear more from Ted Piltzecker, a composer/arranger and vibraphoinst to be reckoned with. – Kim Richmond.

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PERCUSSIVE NOTES

Ted Piltzecker’s recording of Unicycle Man provides the listener with great jazz compositions and performances. Piltzecker wrote all the compositions and displays amazing vibraphone virtuosity as well. In addition to Piltzecker on vibes the other musicians on this recording are saxophoinst Bob Mintzer, pianist James Williams, drummer Dave Meade and bassist Harvie Swartz. The recording quality of the vibraphone is excellent with every note of every run heard and played accurately by Piltzecker. The balance between all performers is fabulous. Selections include”Thea,” a dichotomous mixture of waltz and gospel styles; “Buffalo Dance,” a Latin tune; “Unicycle Man,” featuring the strong improvisational skills of Piltzecker; and “Ouray,” a beautiful and lyrical melody. Unicycle Man is a “must buy” – particularly for jazz vibraphonists. – Lisa Rogers

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THE JAZZ REVIEW

Here’s a fine vibraphonist formerly with George Shearing coupled with four other wonderful improvisors. The quintet includes Bob Mintzer of the Yellowjackets on sax, James Williams on piano, bassist Harvie S and drummer Dave Meade. Nine tracks entice the listener including one standard, “There Is No Greater Love”. All other compositions are by leader Ted Piltzecker. I truly loved his creation titled “Thea”, a nice little waltz written for his newborn daughter. James Williams’ piano styling on the piece is outstanding and somewhat reminiscent of Don Shirley. The title tune, “Unicycle Man” is a showpiece for all in the group. Dave Meade’s drumming is a real attention grabber. Even more surprising is the fact that Ted Piltzecker actually rides a unicycle and has done so for many years. To each his own! I have no intention of putting my bulky body through that kind of torture. All of Ted’s compositions on this issue were written in 1996 and we really shouldn’t have had to wait so long to hear them. The presence of Bob Mintzer makes the wait worthwhile. This is a beautiful session and well worth a listen. It’s an album that will appeal to jazz fans of all persuasions. Reviewed by: Richard Bourcier

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REAL JAZZ – SHORT NORT GAZETTE

Review by Fritz the Nite Owl WWCD 101.1-FM

The combined physical skills of a drummer and pianist are needed to master the vibraphone. Ted Piltzecker has an abundance of both, along with superb compositional abilities, as you’ll hear on this good-vibes excur-sion, which also features splendid solo and ensemble work from Bob Mintzer, James Williams, Dave Meade, and Harvie Swartz.

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CADENCE MAGAZINE

Vibist/Unicyclist Piltzecker asserts that the one-wheeled bicycle presents a metaphor of equilibrium for manythings in life. Judging from Piltzecker’s compositions, which make up all but one of the disc’s selections, that metaphor is incorporated in his writing. The leader’s pieces offer a nice balance of melody and musicianship, with an emphasis on the medium tempo. The majority of the numbers offer a polished unison front-line melody, supplemented by a laid back, but solid, rhythm section. Occasionaly, one of the supporting cast asserts himself, temporarily breaking the group symmetry, as in James Williams’ lon, right handed hard bop rundown in “There Is No Greater Love,” or when Bob Mintzer serves up a warm and mellow tenor feature on “Tango for an Elegant Man.” The leader himself lays down numerous inspired vibe solos, fleetly building on the shift, see-sawing “Conundrum,” or dropping a heavy Latin pulse on the uncharacteristically upbeat “Buffalo Dance.” Overall, Piltzecker and crew have created a very consistent and balanced session. – John Morgan.

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VICTORY REVIEW

Piltzecker is a vibraphonist with great talent and good friends. His compositions – 8 of 9 cuts – are well-formed and amenable to improvisations by Bob Mintzer, sax, James Williams, piano, and Harvie Swartz, bass. This is a thoughtful recording filled with tasteful flair rather than blazing virtuosity, the product of cinfidnet, mature musicians who are committed to the ensemble. Given pieces like “Buffalo Dance,” “Tango for an Elegant Man” and Isham Jones’ “There Is No Greater Love,’ their commitment is worth every note. Piltzecker, an assured improvisor himself, plays with subtle voicing and sublime intervals: you lean in to learn just what is going on. – Walter White.

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WAXWORKS – Bainbridge, GA

“Unicycle Man,” a la virtuoso vibist, Ted Piltzecker, playing his own tracks in earthy, gutsy style, backed with a solid all-star ensemble, getting under our skin. – Jack Burke.

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BLACK AND WHITE

Birmingham’s City Paper Ted Piltzecker is a new name on the vibes, but Unicycle Man (Equilibrium; Box 305, Dexter, MI 48130) has him with seasoned friends like saxman Bob Mintzer and pianist James Williams in a solid quintet essaying the leader’s originals that are focused, diverse (influences from Chick Corea to gospel to R&B), and very enjoyable. Piltzecker has a strong sense of space and continuity in his playing; he’s the most interesting vibes man to emerge in quite some time.. CD Review/TP & Co./Steppe Forward Jazz vibist Ted Piltzecker has by default succeeded in conjuring up a palatable and compelling CD Project if just by his choice of sidemen and the specific jazz standards contained therein. ”Nica’s Dream” stands out as one of the group’s successgful treatments that will stir your sensibilities. The group luxuriates and grooves with excitement, charm, and lyricism as they bring this particular take to fruition. The combined group plays with a certain emphatic cadence that can’t be denied as well as with musical and harmonic contrasts that will startle one’s imagination. Subjectively speaking, I hear strong music that is enriched, delicate, decorative, mysterious and subdued albeit broad and thoughtful. George W Carroll The Musicians’ Ombudsman