The Trio also released six self-produced CDs between 1994 and this year, selling them at gigs and through the Internet. The record companies aware of the group’s popularity and A & R men came sniffing around, but their silver-tongued appeals fell on skeptical ears: “It is a very weird business after all, full of very weird people. To begin with most of these people can't play an instrument and their respect for you is based on how much cash you might or might not make them,” according to Nolan. “This gets a little confusing for everybody involved when they start telling you what is good and what is not good for your music, based on the latest marketing figures . . .”
Fortunately, not all record companies are driven by the bottom line. One notable exception is Refined Records, a small in San Francisco-based jazz label “dedicated to furthering the art of acoustic performance,” according to the label’s press release. When Refined Records head J. Robert Roy heard the Robin Nolan Trio playing on Amsterdam’s famous Leidseplein, in 1995 he knew that they would be perfect for his new label.
Mediterranean Blues serves as an excellent introduction to both the label’s philosophy and the music of RNT. Though they began as an acoustic trio in the “gypsy jazz” tradition mentioned above, The Robin Nolan Trio isn’t content to merely recreate Django-style swing. Song titles like “Luna Tango,” “Bolero Blue,” “Bar Del Pi” and “El Puente” indicate the strong Latin influences, and Latin percussion and dance rhythms are prominently featured in the group’s music. Bassist Paul Meader, who provides tasteful accompaniment and well-conceived contrapuntal solos, ably supports Nolan’s skillful and imaginative playing. Both are given plenty of room to stretch out on the eight-minute “Song For Carolyn” and the Beatlesque “Friar Park,” composed in honor of George Harrison. (Harrison was an early champion of RNT and often books the trio to entertain in his home.)
For those of us with a taste for jazz that still has le joie de vivre, this is an album for you, full of romance and refinement.
Good jazz ain’t dead, it’s where you find it.
Track Listing: Mediterranean Blues, Friar Park, Song For Carolyn, And Then There Were Three, Luna Tango, Bar Del Pi, From The Banks Of The Odra, Bolero Blue, El Puente, Trouble In Paradise, Where Do We Go From Here?
Personnel: Robin Nolan-solo guitar, Paul Meader-bass, Kevin Nolan-rhythm guitar, Jan P. Brouwer-rhythm guitar, Nema Lopes-percussion
Record Label: Refined Records
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