The piano jazz trio is by now a familiar formmaybe too familiar. Many are already attuned to the standards-style trio (which may also cover modern pop tunes), and the free jazz trio (which is neither tethered to melody nor anchored in jazz sensibilities. But expectations need to be set aside when WHO Trio plays. The descriptive title, Less Is More, might just bear the subtitle "any more of this might just be too much."
This trio, featuring drummer Gerry Hemingway, Swiss pianist Michel Wintsch and bassist Bänz Oester, has been making music for more than 10 years now. Although each player has multiple side projects, their work together is both remarkable and quite exceptional. This is the trio's fifth recording, following The Current Underneath (Leo Records, 2004).
The intelligence of this music is in its simplicity and interplay. Only a close working group like WHO Trio could make this coherent a statement and not get in each other's way. The music, pleasing in its simplicity, samples jazz swing but eschews its boundaries. Each player, adept at free jazz, strives to maintain the focus of each thoroughly composed track. No diddling is heard herewhether Wintsch is plucking strings inside his piano, Oester is knocking wood on his bass, or Hemingway is creating a myriad of sounds on his kit, they are contributing to the whole composition.
The closest relation to this trio might be Keith Jarrett's Standards Trio, coupled with the teamwork of the Clusone Trio, and the telepathy of a classic Bill Evans recording. But unlike those bands, WHO Trio doesn't begin its exploration with covers of familiar tunes. It creates its own world, which can be beautiful and moving in ballads that combine the tension and release of jazz with the folk sensibility of a simple melody.
For all practical purposes this is a perfect recording.
Personnel: Michel Wintsch: piano; Bänz Oester: bass; Gerry Hemingway: drums.