Jesse Stacken brings new solo piano works to Jazz Central

When jazz pianist Jesse Stacken decided to step away from his trio and pursue solo piano, he did so in a big way.

From May 2012 to May of this year, the pianist based in Brooklyn, N.Y. composed and recorded a new solo composition every week, and posted them on his website.

“One can imagine that it would be challenging to come up with new material every week,” he said in a concluding video. “While that’s occasionally been true, the biggest challenge has been learning some of the pieces well enough to record them in a week. Almost always I wish I could spend more time really getting inside the pieces before recording them.”

For Stacken, recording 52 new works was a tremendous learning experience – one that taught him about himself and the way he thinks about music. Some of the tunes worked well in ensemble settings, where he could see how other musicians interpreted his work. In turn that helped him as a composer.

Tonight at Jazz Central in Minneapolis, Stacken will perform his improvisational pieces, his compositions and perhaps a standard before a hometown audience. The space is on the lower floor of 407 Central Avenue, S.E.

It is a rare trip home for Stacken, 35, who grew up in Hopkins, Minn., and played piano in the Hopkins High School jazz band under the direction of Don Bates. He studied music at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and after graduating in 2001 pursued a master’s in jazz piano at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City.

Since 2005, Stacken has led the Jesse Stacken Trio with bassist Eivind Opsvik and drummer Jeff Davis since 2005. The group has released three acclaimed records, among them “Bagatelles for Trio.” Stacken also has long worked with trumpeter and cornetist Kirk Knuffke. Their most recent release, “Like A Tree,” features drummer Kenny Wollesen.

Known for his pioneering use of the Internet to share his work, Stacken’s approach to the piano has constantly changed.

“I started out learning straight ahead jazz, explored the lineage of that, got into more avant-garde jazz, and then started seeking out influences in the modern classical world,” he said.

For his latest project, Stacken is composing solo piano recordings for a blog called “The Messiaen Project.” The compositions utilize the techniques of French composer Olivier Messiaen.

“I’m turning to solo piano for two reasons,” he said. “One reason is for the challenge of creating music alone without the stimulation of band mates. I figure there is something to be learned in that. Second is that I can work how I want and when I want.  It’s natural to do the Internet projects that I’ve been doing solo.”

Stacken performs at 8:30 p.m. After his set, Chris Bates and Anthony Cox, two of the Twin Cities’ finest bassists will take the stage for a duo performance — a very big deal. Expect a great pair of shows.