While an organ trio plus trombone isn’t unheard-of, it is uncommon, so much so, says Bill Watrous, that when friend and fellow trombonist Rob Stoneback approached him with the idea, he was skeptical. In the wake of Live in Living Comfort, recorded for what appears to be a small but responsive audience at the Comfort Suites in Bethlehem, PA, one can appreciate that he needn’t have been.
It helps immeasurably, of course, if the group in question knows how to sprint or walk as needed, and this one certainly does. Organist Craig Kastelnik provides fire and spice, guitarist Tom Kozic rhythm and color, while drummer Bill Goodwin (ex-Phil Woods Quartet) is a secure and dependable anchor. Stoneback makes it a quintet on two numbers, playing open on “There Is No Greater Love,” muted on “Blue Monk.” Soaring above them all (literally) is Watrous, monarch of the higher register and a master of any genre or tempo.
Besides the songs already mentioned, the quartet performs Jerome Kern’s “The Way You Look Tonight,” Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “O Grande Amor,” Cole Porter’s “In the Still of the Night” and the ballad “Try a Little Tenderness” before closing with a Watrous original, the well-named “Blues for Mad Mary.” “The Way You Look” sets a blistering pace with Kozik, Kastelnik and Goodwin burning rubber and Watrous working his slide so vigorously that it’s a wonder he didn’t set the music sheets on fire.
“Blue Monk” lounges in a laid-back groove, while “O Grande Amor” underscores the suppleness and beauty of Watrous’s style. Watrous and Stoneback are a congenial twosome on “Greater Love,” and Watrous is sympathetic on “Tenderness,” acrobatic on “Still of the Night,” loose and swinging on “Mad Mary.” Kozic and Kastelnic have extended blowing space on every track, and Goodwin hammers out a number of effective solos as well. There’s ample room to stretch, as most tracks run for more than ten minutes.
Watrous is the headliner, and deservedly so, but everyone chips in to help make the session sparkle. An organ trio with trombone? Not a bad idea after all.
Personnel: Bill Watrous, trombone; Craig Kastelnik, Hammond B-3 organ; Tom Kozic, guitar; Bill Goodwin, drums. Special guest