Pianist Nick Sanders’ classical training is evident on Nameless Neighbors, his debut album on the prestigious Sunnyside Records label. Sanders and his trio with bassist Henry Fraser and drummer Connor Baker explore the world of jazz with a certain refinement that suggests the genteel elegance of classical music.
Sanders, who is from New Orleans and now based in Brooklyn, immediately defines his approach on the CD’s opening cut, “Chamberlain, Maine,” as one of delicate complexity. The soft atmosphere prevails through much of the material with all but three of the 13 cuts coming from the pianist’s pen. That’s part of what makes his departures, like the dramatic, full, two-handed beginning of “New Town” so surprising and thus even amusing.
Sanders is a virtuoso who found his perfect complements in Fraser and Baker, who he met at the New England Conservatory of Music—where he studied privately with five-time Grammy winner, pianist Fred Hersch, who produced the album.
Selecting to include a Thelonious Monk tune was a good move for Sanders. “Manganese” gets the CD swinging while retaining a syncopated edginess. The three musicians take the opportunity to trade bars that offer the bassist and drummer more step-out room. It’s a chance to get to know them better.
Sanders unexpectedly changes gears on “Motor World,” which begins in a quiet, contemplative mood until the pianist hits the pedal like a drag racer. He stunningly speeds along as if there’s someone in his rear-view mirror.
No one would ever expect this progressive jazz album to end on a straight-up version of the chestnut “I Don’t Want To Set the World On Fire.” Considering the ambition the pianist demonstrates on Nameless Neighbors, it’s apparent that Nick Sanders has already lit the torch.