The galvanizing windup for the Diet Coke Women in Jazz Festival at Lincoln Center found Renee Rosnes in a crisply tailored set, with warm, assured playing in addition to an often aggressive approach that was colorful and adventurous. The Canadian-born pianist had the luxury of Steve Wilson’s reed assist and the power-packed rhythm team of Lewis Nash on drums and Buster Williams, with his generous pluck, on bass.
From a gently poetic intro to Jule Styne’s “Just in Time,” Rosnes took flight with a bright, swinging tempo that paved the way for Wilson’s bracing alto turn. Nash, a drummer of facile imagination and sparkling ideas, set a ruddy pace marked with florid designs. Rosnes plays with an ambling grace and starkly emotional patterns that offer colorful arpeggios and a strong melodic base.
With a bold bow to traditional bop, Rosnes revived her own “Dizzy Spells,” featured on the pianist’s CD “A Time for Love.” The tune, inspired by Dizzy Gillespie’s classic “Con Alma,” featured an ebullient turn by Wilson and a bright musical conversation between Rosnes and Nash.
In “Air Dancing,” penned by bassist Williams, Wilson played soprano sax in a solo as serene as a Debussy melody and as picturesque as a Monet lily pond. Rosnes displayed care and finesse, playing the tune as a hushed reverie. Williams contributed a facile solo that conveyed the whispery grace often harbored in the heart of jazz.
All jazz pianists pay homage to Thelonious Monk, and Rosnes met the challenge with “Green Chimneys,” played with a rich sonority and a vivid awareness of the composer’s harmonics and individuality.
Her playing is a stunning affirmation of Monk’s legacy and a seamless expression of spirit and imagination. Gerry Mulligan’s “Little Glory” served Rosnes’ well-conceived vision and ebullience. Her playing is rich in imagination, and there is a decided purity in her feathery and always clean, crisp approach. And there was more than a little glory in Wilson’s airy flute designs.