The second installment of the Harker Concert Series brought the Taylor Eigsti Trio to the stage at Nichols Auditorium on March 25. Eigsti, the 26-year-old jazz piano phenom and Grammy nominee who started leading bands as early as age 12, was joined on this evening by bassist Reuben Rogers, a collaborator with Wynton Marsalis and Roy Hargrove, among others, and drummer Colin McDaniel, 19, a fellow at the Brubeck Institute at the University of the Pacific.
The trio began the first of their two sets with an instrumental interpretation of Sachal Vasandani’s “Please Mr. Ogilvy,” and would perform a diverse mix of covers and Eigsti’s own works as the show progressed. Eigsti’s dexterity was apparent from the outset, but his technical ability was very nearly overshadowed by his expressive syncopation and note choice. Rarely was this illustrated better than in the trio’s rendition of Mussorgsky’s “Promenade” from “Pictures at an Exhibition,” quite possibly the highlight of the first set. At first blush an odd choice of song for a jazz concert, the beloved piece sounded right at home in the trio’s capable hands, as did their cover of Coldplay’s “Daylight.”
What impressed about Eigsti more than anything, however, was the deft sense of placement. Be it a blistering chromatic run, a rapid succession of octaves or even a flurry of closed fists banging against the keyboard, every technique in Eigsti’s vast arsenal was wisely chosen and never overused.
As a special treat, Harker’s own Dave Hart, the middle school music teacher and trumpeter who formed a childhood band with Eigsti, was welcomed onstage to perform Dave Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way” with the band during the second set. Although visibly humbled by the gesture, Hart effused confidence during his extended, skillful improvisations.
Through it all, Eigsti made sure that the talents of his bandmates were as much a part of the show as the marquee name. Rogers’ many solos showcased his astonishing grasp of both theory and feel, and the interplay between him and Eigsti was always a joy to watch. Likewise, the young McDaniel seems destined for great things, his work behind the kit tasteful, layered and, yes, mature.