Schuman Nature by Tom Schuman


I’ll be brief – anyone reading this must know Spyro Gyra’s music. If not, switch the PC off and go to your local record store and buy their latest CD “Original Cinema”. Is that a good CD? OK, so now you know that Tom Schuman is their adventurous keyboard player and he has been for over 25 years – can that be true?

 Maybe you’ve heard his spirited soloing on Spyro Gyra’s two live CD’s. Maybe like me you bought his first solo album “Extremities”. His third solo outing is a jazz trio recording and it’s been released on Tom’s own JazzBridge Music label. OK, enough intro…

Nefertiti is the divine opener to this acoustic set. Wayne Shorter’s classic tune receives a beautiful treatment here – there’s a lot of space and a light touch from all three players. It has moments of intensity nevertheless… Bassman Dwayne Dolphin wrote the lovely Portrait of Adrian, which after a bluesy intro starts to strut just over two minutes in. Dolphin’s bass lays down a mellow but solid measure and Schu’ just lets go. 

It’s fast and frantic on Joe Farrell’s Moon Germs.  Drummer Cora C. Coleman takes a very energetic solo on this track.  I had to catch my breath at the end of the song. Tom Schuman’s first composition on the CD is Marion. I really like this because it’s slow and melodic. I’m not sure that I ever fully appreciated Schuman’s right-hand technique before. When a guy plays clean like this and when big chords are holding it all together, it’s a joy. If you don’t think you’d like acoustic jazz, you should hear this song. 

Bill Evans’ Waltz for Debby is pretty and again the players, with Ameen Saleem on bass this time, have a light touch. Saleem’s timing’s so good you’ll only notice there are no drums when two minutes have passed. Two guys – and it sounds like they’re having fun. The second Schuman composition has a melancholy overtone. Faces in the Clouds is very reflective. The chord progression is awesome. Cora C. Coleman’s rimshots literally keep things ticking as the intensity ebbs and flows.  After a while this song gels beautifully and you’d think you were listening to Joe Sample in a less funky moment. That’s the only comparison I’m going to make in this review. Stunning drumming closes this impressive song. 

The mood lifts for Monk’s Ruby, My Dear. To me, this is played with humour. I’ll admit to never having heard the original so I don’t know if that humour is due to the composer or the players – it shines out though. You could imagine it played live and going completely over the top. Quietly – and stylishly – nuts! McCoy Tyner’s Search for Peace is a lullaby. The soothing brushes and the warmth of Dolphin’s sparse bass are the perfect backdrop to late-night dreamy piano. Any radio station which has a “dinner jazz” spot needs to pick up on this track. 

Schuman’s Thelma Faye has a strong melody and I realise that I’m becoming a fan of his compositions in a way I haven’t always been when I’ve listened to my many Spyro Gyra albums. There are several changes of mood and a few listens might be needed to appreciate everything in this seven-minute song… Schuman’s For the Moment is a solo piano piece which is reflective and melancholy. It’s a clever goodbye because you almost think it won’t end when it does. 

I’m going to play track 6 again…

Forget about everything you’ve heard Tom Schuman play with Spyro Gyra – outstanding though much of it is. This is Tom running his own show, going back to his roots and it’s really a pilgrimage. The truth? I expected to write a much shorter review and spend much less time with “Schuman Nature” than I have. 

Don’t be surprised if lots of people are talking about this CD years from now. It’s performed with commitment, produced with taste and it’s a strong and simple statement of a love for jazz.



JazzBridge Music – cat no. JBM303 – Producers Yvonne and Tom Schuman