Friday, November 30, 2012

Get to Know: Maria Baptist

Product DetailsMaria Baptist is likely a musician that most folks in the U.S. have not heard of. I came across her music this summer in Berlin, and purchased the appropos "Spring in Berlin" (MBM 2010) then.  A trio recording with Andreus Henze on bass and Michael Kersting on drums, I found it to be a very rewarding listen, with all the compositions by Baptist with the exception of one by Henze wonderfully lyrical and well-developed for a lot of group interaction. The CD features music across a wide range of tempos, but always features lyrical and moving piano passages with great percussion and bass support.

Having purchased one CD by Baptist, when I returned home I did some more reserach into her background and discography, and found that Baptist is a well-known and distinguished pianist and composer who has a very low visibility in the U.S. Maria Baptist was born in 1971 in East Berlin. Born to a family of musicians, she gravitated to music early and by age 11 was already starting to compose music for herself. She discoverd jazz through the recordings of Dave Brubeck and Keith Jarrett and leter began studying piano at the university in Berlin and won piano competitions on improvisation while there. Upon the fall of the Berlin Wall, she took the opportunity to move to New York which greatly expanded her musical world. She has studied composition with Maria Schneider, who has remarked: "Her music is a gift, infused with all the creativity, power, emotion, generosity and warmth that she exudes in life." She returned to Berlin at age 25 and has since gone on to write for piano solos, trios, and for orchestra; has won competitions in Leipzig, in Copenhagen with the Danish Radio Jazz Orchestra in Copenhagen and the NDR Composers Competition. She began studies in classical music, and at age 26 was teaching jazz at the University of Music in Berlin, and is still a guest professor at the University of Music "Hanns Eisler", where she teaches composition, arranging, improvisation and jazz theory. She has eight CDs to her credit in all settings, including with the German State Orchestra, solo and with the aforementioned trio.

Product DetailsBaptist's latest CD is "Gate 29" (MBM Recordings 2012), another trio outing with the same band members. These are eleven tightly played original compositions of 7 minutes or less. Despite being only a trio, the orchestration of the three members and compositional strength of Baptist particularly in writing for two hands on the piano provide the listener with a very full, lush sound. The pieces are highly dramatic and expressive, with lots of very dense play and emotion that can be overwhelming when such pieces are played back to back to back. The pieces each have a great deal of movement to them, a percussive force created by the pianist as well as by the strong backing from the drum set, and at times there are echoes of the qualities that one finds in Hiromi's musical sets, albeit with a greataer range of dynamics. The music is chock full of notes, the opposite of an ECM recording that emphasizes space and delicacy; here the music emphasizes spirit, emotions, drama, and energy. With so much heartiness and drive, the listener has to consider each piece carefully or else risk exhaustion by the end of the CD.

The pieces are each individually beguiling. "Travel in Possibilites" opens the set with a lush, almost semi-classical sound, a very strongly written and performed opening driven by a strong piano bass line and high hat crashes. It moves propulsively forward with a sense of urgency provided by the group dynamic and long and quick piano lines. The high-energy play continues with a brisk piece "Gate 29" that features a pulsing piano bass line, more loong and rapid piano lines and a featured drum solo. To my ear the first two pieces feel exactly like the trip to the airport and boarding process; by the third piece "Cloud 9" we are finally settled into our seats and able to relax, and the piece mellows out considerably with a gentle piano solo. The pace slows for a while and the expression of beauty in captured nicely even as the tempo does increase before settling back.

There are indeed less driven pieces, notably "The Blue Shore" and especially "Open Landscape" with reflective melodies, more coloration than tempo driven percussion, and some nice lead parts for the bass. "Open Landscape" is particularly sweet and lyrical.

Baptist is a talented composer and skilled pianist, and both CDs with the trio are full of wonderful pieces. Perhaps a bit more variety is needed, particularly with "Gate 29", so that the listener in not overwhelmed by the music,  but all in all I would not hesitate to recommend this to those interested in creative modern jazz. My next step will be to listen to her orchestral music.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Four More Trios: Outside Looking In

Of the group of piano trios I picked out a couple of weeks ago, these are the furthest outside of the mainstream, but not so far as to be called avant guard or free jazz, etc. Each is characterized by strong melodic lines, with a combination of written and improvised play. Finally, the idea was to pick out trios that wer just that, trios of piano, bass (or stringed instrument) and drums (or percussion) with no guest appearances by wind or brass instruments. Purely trios. One of the three herein breaks the mold a bit, but the other three do not. Anyway....

Product DetailsThe first is Hiromi's latest, "Move" (Telarc 2012) with Anthony Jackson on contrabass guitar and Simon Phillips on drums. Perhaps not so out there after all, Hiromi is well-established by now with a host of earlier CDs as a bombastic, enthusiastic, agile, and original pianist. Here her goal was to present a suite of songs that describe her day, from wakening through going to sleep, and much of the original compositions are nicely written with some lovely melodies and interplay with the band. Unfortunately, once again Hiromi emphasizes dexterity, creativity and speed but not so much when it comes to dynamics, contrasts, and expression. I do not wake up this quickly, and surely am more tired out at the end of the day, so the arc of the day here is limited. This is very much a "look at me" production. I have to say I do like the music and there is a time and place to listen to Hiromi, particularly when I am looking for something lively and spirited, but her CDs can get to be tiring to listen to in one sitting given the limited range of expression. She is dazzling no doubt, and when she does go mellow, as she does for parts of "Endeavor", and quite a lot for "Brand New Day" it can be charming to hear. If you like Hiromi, and I do, then you will like this CD, but maybe like me in small servings.

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"Space is the Place" (Storyville 2012) is a trio recording by Carsten Dahl on piano, Arild Andersen on bass, and Jon Christiansen on drums, all familiar names from the Northern Europe chamber jazz scene as well as from ECM recordings. This is very much in that same mode, very peaceful music that never goes over the top, and very textured with the addition of bells, chimes, inside piano play, and other percussive effects. It is an album you will feel as much as hear. It is more sound-based than melodically driven, and the space referred  to is clearly not outer-space but the space between notes, and the inner space of one's perceptions. All of the compositons are from Dahl, and his notes refer to his goal to provide a lot of freedom to explore sounds and melodies, and he achieves this with a wonderfully recorded session.

Product DetailsThird on this post is a group I never thought I would sit down, listen to, and enjoy --- Medeski, Martin and Wood, but I have to say that I love their latest, the all-acoustic "Free Magic" (Indirecto 2012). In fact, since listening to it I have dipped back into their discography and have purchased their only other two acoustic CDs, "Live at Tonic" (Blue Note 2000)  and their first, "Notes from the Underground" (Accurate Jazz 1992). Yes, there are still some very frantic parts to each of the recordings, but when they settle in their trio plays pretty conventionally, with the emphasis on melodic interplay and clean lines and imporvisations. There are five tracks in all, with the last one being the only cover, a mash-up of "Nostalgia in Times Square" by Mingus and "Angel Race" by Sun Ra, and despite the known proclivities of the two composers to go to the edges this track is really great stuff and great interpretations of the songs within the trio context. "Blues for Another Day", the second track, starts out with a wild four minute whirlwind of sound, kind of an "uh-oh", but then settles into a relaxed piano blues that slowly goes from a piano solo into a more driven trio blues, with some strong use of the high hat to drive it along. It is a wow piece attributed to Medeski. Track 4, "Where's Sly", is another Medeski piece that starts with the piano in the bass clef playing another blues in a middle tempo, and then picks up into a near frenzy until it settles back again after about 7 minutes. There are all sorts of sounds and textures, major dynamic shifts, and some outstanding play from the percussion by Martin that highlight this track. I strongly recommend this CD, and encourage others like me to give MM&W a chance.

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Finally, another musician who I have taken to, at least in certain settings, is John Zorn.  I have posted about him before, "Stretching Out: Discovering John Zorn" (March 13), and this time around I draw your attention to "A Vision in Blakelight" (Tzadik 2012) which is a bit more than a trio recording but still confined to percussion instruments:  John Medeski on piano and organ, Kenny Wollesen on vibes and bells, Carol Emanuel on harp, Trevor Dunn on bass, Joey Baron on drums, and Cyro Baptista on percussion. (One track has a narrator reading from Blake's Jersusalem but I myself skip through it) All of the music was writtenand arranged by Zorn. Some of the works are based on strong melodies and others are more like watercolors with lots of interesting effects from a wide range of sounds. ther are several pieces where I thought of the music of Ronin or The Necks, but with a bit more movement provided; others were more strongly rooted in melody lines and a trio setting. Watercolors in sound, the music engenders feelings of mystery and of the mystical as it weaves through the ten pieces. The packaging is terrific as well, with some outstanding paintings of angels that convey the same sense of mystery.  Zorn's musical compositions are unlike those of any others I can think of and a listen to this CD will be a rewarding experience for those willing to try.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

This Just In! Roberto Gatto's Latest

Product DetailsI wrote not too long ago about the outstanding Italian drummer Roberto Gatto. I just got a copy of his latest trio outing, "Replay" (EGEA Music 2012) with Alessandro Lanzani on piano and Gabriele Evangelista on bass, and it fits right into the framework of the previous CD. It combines seven pieces penned by member of the group with five covers, but the covers themselves are far more impressions and improvisations on the covers than straight readings. So songs like Wayne Shorter's "Ave Maria", Jobim's "Double Rainbow", Dewey Redman's "Mushi Mushi", Monk's "Pannonica" and the title piece by Samuele Bersani and Lucio Dalla are all entirely fresh. "Improv #1 and #2" could be right out of the ECM/Scandanavian playbook -- lots of open space, short piano bursts or melodic tunes, drums or cymbals  that are deep in the background providing color, all creating sonic landscapes. Gatto directs the music from the back, either coloring tunes like "Pannonica", which also includes some nice soloing by the bass, or by more direct beat keeping. This is my first exposure to pianist Lanzani and I am impressed by the touch, agility and sureness with which he plays whether out front or comping for the bass.  

There is no flash here, just a piano trio playing really nice music that is largely impressionistic and tinged with a northern european sensibility -- lyrical, creative, mellow music which is just right for those who like modern creative piano trios, or, like me, love all things Italian.

And More New Piano Trios: Let's Step Ouside

Part three of my summary of the piano trios I have purchased in the past couple of months features piano trios that are a bit outside the "standards" trios, but not really very far. These are the CDs that would stretch a straight-ahead listener a bit, but not too much, and I would encourage such a listener to try them. These are what I would term modern creative jazz sets, mixed sets of improvisation and composition, and deconstructions of standards and pop tunes, but always within the framework of an acoustic trio.

It happens that all of the CDs presented here are from overseas, and in fact are all on UK labels. The UK and Europe are at the forefront of a lot of the new modernist trio think, with some groups well-known in the U.S. and others known for the most part only overseas.  Note that in past posts I have written extensive pieces on some of the trios that play music within this context, like Gwilym Simcock, Stefano Bollani,  Helge Lien, John Law, Yaron Herman, and Zoe Rahman among others. This is my small attempt to bring some attention to more of them.

Product Details"Icaros" (F-IRE 2012) by the Dominic Marshall Trio is the first of the CDs. It starts right awy with a nice uptempo song, "Loose in Your Atmosphere", that is somewhat the paradigm for the group. It features a bold and lively melody played by pianist Marshall, backed by very upfront play by Kaspars Kurdecko on drums and Tobias Nijboer on bass. It is not a hummable tune but it is a lovely one, and a demonstration of Marshall's talents both as a pianist and composer, as he wrote this and all of the other songs on the disc. The tunes vary among the upbeat and the delicate, so that the opening tune is immediately followed by a very delicate "Pointer." This combination rquires clear interplay among the partners so that they can move easily between the varying tempos and moods, and the three partners do so seamlessly. Great dynamics, great expression.  A first rate creative jazz outing that is easy on the ear and would be a good listen both for those who like to be in the box as well as outside.

Product DetailsChristoph Stieffel and the Inner Language Trio play a great set on "Live" (Basho 2012). Stiefel is evidently a veteran of the Swiss jazz scene and this is his first wide exposure. He too stresses melody first, built around a concept called "isorhythms", which may sound dull and to me is hard to completely grasp, but won't matter to the listener. What we get here is a CD by a pianist with excellent two handed play, which really creates a great big sound. He is backed by Thomas Lahns on bass and Linel Friedli or Kevin Chesham on drums. "New Waltz for Nina" is a highlight, a lyrical melody that shines, backed by the coloration of the drum set and a quiet pulse from the bass. "Eliane" benefits from the colorations of the high hat, brushes on cymbals, and delicate snares. There is a very contemporary feel to the CD, and a nice mixture of the quiet with the intensity of other tunes like "Pensar Positivo/Isorhythm #18" and "Olympus Mons/Isorhythm # 5." This has the same appeal -- flowing tunes, creative writing of all the songs by the leader, and nice trio interplay.

Product DetailsThe third entry is "First Hello to Last Goodbye" (Interrupto 2012) by Tom Bancroft: Trio Red. Bancroft is a drummer of Scottish origin with an extensive background who is known for his humor, creativity, and enthusiasm, all of which is brought to bear on this project. He is joined by Tom Cawley on piano, another well-known U.K. veteran and member of The Curios, and Norwegian Per Zanussi on bass. The music combines compositions by Bancroft alongside fully improvised songs and a couple of covers, one of "Opportunity/Lonely Woman by Joan Armatrading and Ornette Coleman and the other Jeff Buckley's "Last Goodbye."  There are fully improvised songs, and songs written by Bancroft or arranged by him but only played for the first time at these sessions, but I cannot really distinguish between them because all are nicely laid out, fluid, and tightly done. The opener is the mash-up of Armatrading and Coleman and it is adventerous and seriously fun to listen to. "Boy Meets Boy Meets Girl Meets Girl" is a humourous tile for a standout song. Mellow, colorful, it builds in intensity through some really nice impressionistic play by the group before it recedes back to a quiet ending. It is intense, enthusiastic, and engrossing. The entire album is the same, a very modern mainstream event where everyone steps up to the plate to deliver a bravura performance, be it the quiet beauty of some or the brash upbeat tempos of the others. And checkout the title "Fukurik", a dig at the U.S. presidential elections and particularly the Republican candidates (or one in particular). Lots of fun and lots of good solid music.

Product DetailsThe last recording is by Django Bates Beloved, the second CD by this particular group led by Bates, entitled "Confirmation." (Lost Marble 2012) As he did last with "Bird" (Lost Marble 2010) by the same group, Bates has taken some Charlie Parker songs and deconstructed them to creat some lively recreations for his trio, which includes Peter Eldh on bass and Peter Bruun on drums. On the previous Parker outing the group played seven Parker tunes plus a couple of other covers like "Laura" and "Star Eyes." This time out, there are only three by Parker, six originals, and one forgettable final track "A House is Not a Home" by Burt Bacarach and Hal David with singing by Ashley Slater. Putting aside the last track this is joyful, original, and upbeat throughout. The music is interesting at all times, a bit angular compared to the flowing melodies of the other CDs at times, but also lyrical on songs like "Senza Bitterness." "Confirmation" is upbeat like always but completely new and vital, "Donna Lee" and "Now's the Time" equally so. The music is fascinating and Bates is truly a master of creative composing and improvisation. This is a highlight album to my ear among the pack, and yet any or all of them are terrific.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

I'm Late to the Party: Makoto Ozone

Until recently I had not heard of Makoto Ozone, which turns out to be my loss. Since then, I have purchased his two latest CDs, "Pure Pleasure for the Piano"(Emarcy 2012) and "My Witch's Blue" (Emarcy 2012). Both are excellent, both mainstream, and both feature some outstanding partners.

First, who is Makoto Ozone? According to his biography, he was born in Kobe, Japan in 1961, and his parents told him he began playing organ at age 2. He came to the piano at age 12 after hearing Oscar Peterson and was hooked. He began playing at jazz festivals while still in high school. At 19, he entered Berklee College of Music (1980) as a jazz arranging and composition major. While gigging in Boston, he met Gary Burton, with whom he has now had a long standing relationship on many CDs, and in 1983 he was signed to a contract with CBS and released his first CD "Makoto Ozone" with all original compositions. He joined the Gary Burton Quartet and played all over the world, and later recorded three more CDs for CBS as well as with the Burton Quartet. In 1989 he returned to Japan and while he recorded several CDs there, none were made available in the U.S.  He has played with some great musicians like Peter Erskine, John Patitucci, Marc Johnson, and Paquito D'Rivera among others; and has 36 recordings as leader since that first recording in 1983.

He recently returned to live in New York, and with these two discs and live appearances I expect he will become more familiar to jazz fans here. But in the meantime, the two new discs are really lovely, similar in both being mainstream, but different in tempos, selections, and overall felling.

Product DetailsThe first one I had was "Pure Pleasure for the Piano", and that is a perfect name for these eight songs. Ozone has a first rate partner on this duo piano outing, Ellis Marsalis, and together they make some lovely, laid back classic sounding recordings of chestnuts like "Emily", "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans", "Sweet Georgia Brown", and What is This Thing Called Love", along with one song penned by the two gentlemen, one by Ozone, and a couple of others. Everything is played at a mellow tempo, very relaxed, and exceedingly gracefully. When Branford Marsalis joins on the final song "Struttin' With Some Barbecue" the mid-tempo blues really cooks. Delightful stuff, nothing really inventive or suprising, just a really partnership.

Product DetailsThe second CD is more upbeat with more driving tempos being pushed along by the team of Christian McBride and Jeff "Tain" Watts. The first song sets the stage, "Bouncing in My New Shoes" and is a real toe tapper that clearly reflects the title. This is a pure swing session of Ozone's compositions, which will tickle the fancy of those who love hard moving, straight down the middle piano trios. Everyone gets into the action, McBride and Watts deliver the goods, and it sounds like everyone had a good time. Track 9 is a solo improvisation, "Continuum" that shows Ozone's light touch and expressive dynamics at his best, naked to the listener. And once the set is done, the group does its"encore", a great rendition of the classic "Satin Doll." Highly recommended.

Now it's time to go back in the discography and listen to some more of Ozone.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Continuing Joys of the Piano Trio: Two Recent Additions from ECM

ECM has had a great year for releases, and the two recent piano trios discussed here are two of the reasons why.

Product DetailsBobo Stenson has an extensive catalogue with ECM both as leader and sideman, and I am not sure that I have ever been disappoined in his work, but this new release is perhaps my all-time favorite. "Indicum" (ECM 2012) is a dynamically varied program of improvisations, sacred works, covers of Bill Evans and George Russell, with strong melody lines and a lively rhythmic sensibility that complement the impressionistic compositions that are also a part of this program. Bill Evans' "Your Story" leads off the CD and the strong melody line and dynamic reading is a joy to hear.  "Indikon" is a lovely impressionistic improvisation and follows "Your Song". The next piece is the title song and it has a more fully realized melody and strong but subtle pulse provided by the bassist and drummer, Anders Jormin and Jon Fait respectively. "Ermutigung", the next piece opens with a solo from Jormin, and continues as a brooding solemn piece; as I understand, it is a protest song, which accounts for its mood.  "La Peregrinacion" is a delicate work with lovely coloration from the drum set, beautiful counter melodies played by the bass, and a lot of open space to let the composition breathe.  And so it goes, layer upon layer of beauty produced by a trio in synch with each other, a traditional Norwegian  "Ave Maria", a piece by Jormin called "Sol" that starts with just the bass and drums for a full two minutes, a fascinating piece by George Russell called "Event VI", and the lyrical "Ubi Caritas" to close. This is a special CD in a long line of special performances by Stenson as well as in the tradition of all of the other great ECM piano trios.  

Product DetailsThe Benidikt Jahnel Trio is new to ECM, though Jahnel himself has been a sideman on previous recordings for the label with the group Cyminology. "Equilibrium" (ECM 2012) is another in the long line of outstanding piano trio CDs that ECM has brought to the attention of the listening public, and is a demonstration of the tastes and sensibilities that suffuse them all. The other members of the trio are Antonio Miguel on bass and Owen Howard on drums.  Delicate, lyrical, restrained, moody are all adjectives that best describe the work, which is a highly unifed program of seven original pieces by Jahnel. The drumming is mostly in the background and used delicately for coloration, and the bass lines weave a path in and out under the delicate and lyrical piano melodies. This combination is best realized in the seond piece "Sacred Silence", as beautiful a song as you will hear this year. “Moorland & Hill Land” is a 14 minute piece that begins quietly and sparsely with a range of delicate and charming sounds from all three players individually followed by some more foreboding sounds from the bass clef on the piano; gradually they gather themselves together with a most lyrical middle section featuring a lovely piano solo and then bass lead with the drums nad piano comping. After the solo the piece returns to a collective, quiet ending.  “Augmented” maintains the  delicate and lyrical sensibility and demonstrate the elegance of Jahnel's touch and expressiveness.  “Wrangel” is a bit more lively and less structured around a single melody line but is no less interesting to hear as the group plays with dynamics, textures, and sounds. It is played at a faster pace than the other pieces, and the piano part features some rapid runs, and stronger chordings in the left hand, while the beat is more pronounced and drives the song along. The album ends with the title track, which is another lyrical melody that demonstrates once more Jahnel's light touch and lyricism. A welcome addition to the ECM family.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Joys of the Jazz Trio: Recent Acquisitions

I have been delinquent in preparing posts for a while now. I could blame Huricane Sandy but the truth is that I got out of the rhythm of writing regularly after my trip in August, which is a long time ago already and a lousy excuse. Since my last post in October I have acquired a significant amount of new music and stalled every time I tried to decide on what to do next.  With this post I hope to make up for lost time and to spur myself back into action. Here goes.....

I've decided to tackle some of the many piano trios I have accumulated since the beginning of fall, dating all the way back to one I purchased while in Barcelona in August. After picking out a selection of those that I wanted to blog about, I have separated them into four sets, of which this post covers those that I would consider closest to the mainstream, e.g. those that feature composed music; a mix of standards, popular music, and originals; an emphasis upon melody; and improvisation around the melodies that are not too "far out."

Product DetailsThe first CD is the Albert Sanz Trio's "O Que Sera" (Nuba Records 2012), featuring Albert Sanz on piano, Javier Colina on bass, and the veteran Al Foster on drums. Sanz is a Valencian born in 1978 who studied at Berklee, and who has recorded several CDs since his 2004 debut on Fresh Sounds New Talent. And talented he is, with a very lyrical and flowing style to his play, supported by two veteran players on bass and drums. The music has a very distintive and strong pulse, although it is not strongly latin-flavored despite the compositions themselves being largely by the Brazilians Ivan Lins and Chico Buarque, with one song by Jobim and "Sophisticated Lady" by Ellington. Foster provides a lot of the forward drive from his drum set, and the tunes feature many melodies with syncopated rhythms that keep the toes tapping throughout. But it is the lightness of Sanz' touch and inventiveness of his play that stands out on this really delicious set. Stongly recommended mainstream trio work. 

Product DetailsNext is a re-release of a 1986 outing at the Village Vanguard, featuring the Steve Kuhn Trio, "Life's Magic" (Sunnyside 2012). I have said before that I am a big Steve Kuhn fan, and this 26 year old recording is outstanding, with Kuhn's partners being the inestimable Ron Carter on bass and Al Foster once again on drums. Fresh and inspired play abounds, featuring  "Jitterbug Waltz", "Never Let Me Go", "Little Old Lady", "Yesterday's Gardenias"and "Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise" along with three originals by Kuhn.  There is very little more that needs to be said about this trio other than the names of the players -- Kuhn, Foster, and Carter -- the setting -- the Vanguard -- and the songs. A real masterpiece of the traditonal jazz trio. 

Product DetailsJunior Mance is back again on his own label with "The Three of Us" (JunGlo Music 2012), a trio CD recorded live at the Cafe Loup, where Mance plays each Sunday night.  Mance, who is 84 years young, is a veteran of over 60 years as a jazz pianist, beginning his career in the late forties with Gene Ammons, and later playing with Lester Young, Dinah Washington, Cannonball Adderley, dizzy Gillespie, and the Eddie Davis/Johnny Griffin group.  He is a master of the bop piano who has recorded in excess of two dozen CDs as a leader. this latest disc is unusual in that his accompanists feature drummer Hide Tanaka and, instead of a bass as the string instrument, violinist Michi Fuji. While I am not inclinded to liking jazz violin, the ocmbination works beautifully here, with the violin playing counter-melodies, keeping time, and ocassionally taking solos while Mance in turn comps. the seven tunes include five covers and two Mance originals, with "Emily" and "Whisper Not" being highlights for this listener. This is a lovely, restrained set of flowing melodies and lively improvisations.

Product DetailsAnother live performance is featured on the next CD, "Live at Kitano" (Palmetto 2012) by the Frank Kimbrough Trio, featuring Kimbrough on piano, Jay Anderson on bass, and Matt Wilson on drums. this third live outing (Kuhn and Mance being the first two) is from a small room in New York City, and the Trio plays an appropriately relaxed and restrined set, featuring three originals by Kimbrough and five other melodies. Kimbrough's style is generally quiet and highly impresionistic, even when playing standards such as "Lover Man" and Single Petal of a Rose", as the trio does here, and it is lovely to sit back and enjoy the creativity, lyricism, and colorations of the music, which is first rate. Speaking of colorations, the trio does a wonderful job with a Paul Motian composition, "Arabesque" with Wilson in particular providing the moods and shadings expected from a Motiian piece.

Product DetailsThe last of the trios featured in this post is the most lively, that of the Dave King Trio's "I've Been Ringing You" (Sunnyside 2012). Yes this is the same Dave King from the Bad Plus and of Dave King's Trucking Company, but the music is light years away from the sounds of those two groups. Here the music is much more in the tradition of a standards piano jazz trio, with melody trumping rhythm and dynamics, and improvisations being creative but inside the box. his supporting cast is Bill Carrothers on piano and Billy Peterson on drums. This is trio music for those who are looking for a little pizzazz, a little less restraint than Kimbrough or Kuhn offer, and more freedom and dynamic play. There are no liner notes for the recording; I can only assume that King wanted to demonstrate that he can play within the tradition, that he does not have to be bombastic or outre, and that he has great technique and a great sense of arrangement. And I believe he proves this, with a set of eight pieces that includes seven covers and one group composition/improvisation. Songs like "So In Love", "If I Should Loose You", and "People Will Say We're In Love" are handled with panache and creativity; and Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman" is a highlight to this listener. This is for those who like the mainstream but want to step out slightly into the world of modern creative post-bop -- not too traditional, but not overly modern and improvisational either.

So there are five really nice CDs that I recommend without reservation. Some are mellow and restrained, some less so, but all demostrate outstanding musicianship.