The title of her latest LP, says Leslie Pintchik, came to her when she heard a shout while walking in downtown Manhattan: “You eat my food, you drink my wine, you steal my girl!” A mouthful, perhaps, but also a heck of a way to introduce your latest record. Luckly, it’s fitting, too.

Leslie Pintchik – You Eat My Food, You Drink My Wine, You Steal My Girl (Pintch Hard Records, 2018)

On her sixth full-length, Pintchik’s latest LP mixes standards and originals, tradition and innovation. At times, she relies on a standard jazz sextet, at others it’s stripped down to her, Satoshi Takeishi on percussion, and Scott Hardy on bass. Oh, and there’s Shoko Nagai on accordion. It’s been a while since I heard one used in a jazz context. Probably since Ellery Eskelin/Andrea Parkins/Jim Back released their last trio LP, actually.

But throughout You Eat My Food…, nothing sounds out of place. Far from being a distraction, Nagai’s playing gives the music a new texture and ambience. On “Hopperesque,” he gives the music a hazy, slow vibe, almost like an old film set in Paris. Meanwhile, on “Happy Dog,” it gives things a warm, almost whimsical vibe.

Of course, he’s only a part of this record: it’s Pintchik’s through and through. Her music conveys a sense of humour: the funny titles, the light and comic undertones to the music. The title track rips out of the gate, swinging hard, while her piano propels the piece along. Elsewhere, she gives “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” a Latin, almost samba groove, cumulating with a tasty solo.

The tracks where her and her group go into a post-bop direction are when the record works best: “Your Call Will Be Answered By Our Next Available Representative, In The Order In Which It Was Received, Please Stay On The Line; Your Call Is Important To Us,” starts and stops, breaking down like on-hold music being interrupted by the title’s message. But when she’s going, her playing takes a nice, angular approach, with the rhythm section giving her plenty of room to stretch out.

A note about them: Hardy and drummer Michael Sarin are a rock-solid rhythm duo for this record. On both “Your Call…” and the title track, they’re playing in a big pocket, giving plenty of space for Ron Horton, Steve Wilson and Pintchik to push the melody forward and solo.

On the slower tracks, things drag a little bit. “Mortal” builds up, but Pintchik’s playing doesn’t rise to the same level, although it gives Wilson’s sax a chance to shine. And ‘I’m Glad There Is You” slowly builds, but never really has the same release as her harder-swinging tracks.

Throughout You Eat…, it’s sometimes not to think of Carla Bley: another irreverent, pianist/composer. But it’s more than a little unfair to compare Pintchik/Bley on basis of their both being female jazz pianists. Pinchik’s playing is nowhere near as outside as Bley’s, for example. And where Bley’s sense of humour comes from the music itself, often requiring more than a passing knowledge to get the joke (“Wrong Key Donkey,” “440,” etc), Pintchik’s comes from her literary background: hence the titles. Essentially, her sense of humour’s more playful than subversive, not to mention easier to digest.

Another comparison: in 2018, most people’s idea of mainstream jazz comes from the more experimental end of things: Colin Stetson, Kamasi Washington, that kind of thing. You Eat is closer to tradition than any of those artists, although BADBADNOTGOOD’s IV isn’t far removed from this style of post-bop at times. Okay, so maybe Leslie Pintchik doesn’t have the same social commentary as Washington. Big deal. All things considered, You Eat… is a fine, enjoyable jazz record, and that’s reason enough to check it out. Recommended.

Freelance writer and music fan, whose writing has appeared on The Good Point, The Toronto Review of Books, and CTV.ca, among other places. Favorite albums: Dig Me Out, Live-Evil, Decade.