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The Nice Guy Trio: Here Comes The Nice Guy Trio (2009)

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The Nice Guy Trio: Here Comes The Nice Guy Trio How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Give three imaginative artists a yearlong residency in a performance space, located in a breeding ground for creative music and the results hopefully will turn out to be something like Here Comes The Nice Guy Trio.

Canadian trumpeter Darren Johnston, now living in the Bay area of San Francisco, spent a year making music at the Red Poppy Art House in the Mission District with the aptly named Nice Guy Trio with accordionist Rob Reich and bassist Daniel Fabricant. Their experiments and exploration into music making, documented here, involved a revolving cast of collaborators and musical influences.

Like trumpeter Dave Douglas

Dave Douglas
Dave Douglas
b.1963
trumpet
, Johnston feels no need to be anchored by the heaviness of the jazz canon working with Fred Frith
Fred Frith
Fred Frith
b.1949
guitar
, Joelle Leandre
Joelle Leandre
Joelle Leandre
b.1951
bass
, Rent Romus
Rent Romus
Rent Romus
b.1968
sax, alto
, and ROVA. Johnston's projects include United Brassworkers Front that plays everything from Bach to New Orleans marching music, and his own quintet that released the stellar disc The Edge Of The Forrest (Clean Feed, 2008).

Reich's accordion opens the disc with "The Balancing Act," found somewhere in a black & white film about Paris. With Johnston's trumpet swinging back and forth, it becomes clear that the hero will find love, lose love, and in the end walk off into the sunset with his girl. The trio plays music which trods somewhere between the chamber and the cabaret. With guest musicians added, their vision is achieved. Ben Golberg's clarinet, Alex Kelly

Alex Kelly
Alex Kelly
b.1972
cello
's cello, and Dina Maccabee's violin augment the trio on "Simple Life," a sweet ballad that is plucked and bowed from naivety to simple beauty. The music is seemingly unadorned in its presentation, yet so intricate in its freedom of expression.

The trio adds tabla player Sameer Gupta

Sameer Gupta
Sameer Gupta
b.1976
tablas
on two tracks, "Off The Grid" and "Apples." Gupta's presence adds an urgency that is intercepted by Fabricant's bass and the very nimble playing of Johnston. When the band adds pedal steel guitarist David Phillips to the classic track "Fables For Faubus" the 'whimsy' of Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus
1922 - 1979
bass, acoustic
' segregation is furthered by the theremin-like sound of Phillips and the cartoon take of the trio. Johnston's slurs deft, spry notes over the walking notes, that turn into a talking bass.

It isn't until the trio covers Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
b.1930
sax, alto
's "Folk Tale" that their mission in finally revealed. Like Coleman's music circa 1959-1961, the band makes the simple complex, and the impenetrable accessible. Extended techniques are palatable and pleasing and all things are right in the world.

Track Listing: The Balancing Act; Apples; Simple Life; Fables For Faubus; Woeful; See Ya; Folk Tale; Unicycle Cocek; Amy's Day; Off The Grid; Ducci Calypso.

Personnel: Darren Johnston: trumpet; Rob Reich: accordion; Daniel Fabricant: bass; Sameer Gupta: tablas (2, 10); Ben Goldberg: clarinet (3, 6); Alex Kelly: cello (3); Dina Maccabee: violin (3); David Phillips: pedal steel guitar (4, 9); Aaron Keirbal: dumbek, assorted drums (8).

Record Label: Porto Franco Records

Style: Modern Jazz


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