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In other words, the record swings: a major plus for an unpretentious, accessible, this-is-who-I-am kind of record. On the other hand, “Whirling Mantis” comes with ideas, because Mr. O’Neal can write. BEN RATLIFF


A few hundred years ago, classical pianists would impress audiences by improvising cadenzas in the middle of a concerto — riffing, we would say today. Now improvisation is firmly in the realm of jazz. But a new record called Marvelous Fantasy explores the connection between jazz and classical improvisation. It’s by the 30-year-old jazz pianist Harold O’NealKURT ANDERSON


Harold O’Neal’s “Marvelous Fantasy” is a solo piano record in two ways. He plays his instrument unaccompanied, and the album is a piece of work that seems to be out there on its own. I have an idea where the music comes from, but I’m not hearing it anywhere else. BEN RATLIFF

My guest is Harold O'Neal. He's a kick boxer, a Rubik's cube champion, a B-boy dancer. Most importantly, he is a jazz pianist, and his new album is a collection of pieces for solo piano. It's called "Marvelous Fantasy." GUY RAZ


Harold O'Neal's Whirling Mantis is named for a defensive move in karate. The martial-arts reference suggests one way to look at how O'Neal's music operates: The players react to each other's moves, deflecting one another in stylized interaction. KEVIN WHITEHEAD

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