Alan Benzie Trio, Traveller's Tales (own label)

Pianist Alan Benzie has taken his time in releasing his first album. The first winner of the Young Scottish Jazz Musician of the Year title in 2007, Benzie went on to Berklee School of Music in Boston, where he was quite the star student, becoming the first British musician to win the Billboard Award that was also claimed by Japanese pianist Hiromi and saxophonists Jaleel Shaw and Walter Smith lll - all now significant figures in their respective jazz environs - and he's followed his studies with much international road work.

As a result, this album is the work of an already strong voice and a road-hardened group that presents Benzie's music with empathy and understanding.

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The jazz tradition's influence can be detected in some Thelonious Monk-like phrases and the gospel flavour of Midnight Café but Benzie is at the stage where he can acknowledge the masters he learned from (Swedish trio EST also helped to shape his thinking) while applying his own creativity in highly developed improvisations such as A Wandering Mist's epic piano solo.

His pieces all have stories behind them, hence the album title, and it's probably best to hear Frog Town on the Hill explained in concert. No background knowledge is required, however, to enjoy Benzie's clear articulation and thoroughly engaging musicality.

Rob Adams