Christian Jacob, surely one of the jazz world's most overlooked and underrated pianists, is enormously popular in Japan, where he was invited to perform a series of concerts in October 2007 with his working trio and to record selected numbers from each to comprise the album Live in Japan
. Jacob, who can caress the keyboard as gently as a soft summer rain and swing emphatically at the drop of a hi-hat, brings all his impressive assets to bear in a captivating recital that includes his original compositions "Little Eyes" and "State of Mind," a quartet of well-loved Japanese melodies, and the standards "Too Close for Comfort," "It Never Entered My Mind," "All or Nothing at All" and "At Last."
As Jacob, bassist Trey Henry and drummer Ray Brinker have been together for more than a dozen yearsas a trio as well as three-fourths of singer Tierney Sutton
's bandan easy familiarity undergirds their perceptive interplay. This is clearly one case, however, in which familiarity breeds not contempt but excellence, as the threesome work together like an intuitive yet no less well-oiled machine. Brinker is splendid with sticks or brushes, while Henry's bass is plangent and precise. Jacob's eloquent solo piano enriches the first two minutes-plus of the fast-paced "Too Close for Comfort," which is followed by the poignant "Never Entered My Mind" and pensive "Little Eyes." The Japanese songs, which encompass the four seasons, are well-tailored and engaging, especially the translucent "Akatonbo" (Autumn). Jacob's tranquil "State of Mind" comes next, before he and his companions ring down the curtain with exemplary readings of the venerable standards "Nothing at All" and "At Last."
As rewarding as studio sessions can be, there's an invigorating sense of spontaneity that sets concert performances above and apart from their cloistered counterparts. Live in Japan presents the Christian Jacob Trio at its extemporary best. Those who admire piano trios should be advised that they don't make 'em much better than this.
Personnel: Christian Jacob: piano; Trey Henry: bass; Ray Brinker: drums.