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Rick Germanson Trio: Off the Cuff (2009)

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Rick Germanson Trio: Off the Cuff How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

With so many mainstream piano trios flooding the market, it's increasingly difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. It's easier when, in the instance of a Brad Mehldau
Brad Mehldau
Brad Mehldau
b.1970
piano
, John Taylor
John Taylor
John Taylor
b.1942
piano
or Enrico Pieranunzi
Enrico Pieranunzi
Enrico Pieranunzi
b.1949
piano
, the artist's voice is so distinctive and approach so readily identifiable that there can be little doubt of its relevance. It becomes a greater challenge with pianists working this space who combine original composition with the Great American Songbook and, occasionally, more contemporary popular sources. Still, there are pianists who, in their unassuming honesty, feel and touch, rise above the crowded arena. Like Lenore Raphael, who brings elegance and charm to everything she touches, Milwaukee native/New York resident Rick Germanson is a straight-ahead player who may not move the music forward in great leaps, but plays without presumption, approaching everything he touches with heart, soul and improvisational élan.



Off the Cuff features Germanson's new trio, with Gerald Cannon back from You Tell Me (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2005) and Louis Hayes

Louis Hayes
Louis Hayes
b.1937
drums
replacing the more outgoing Ralph Peterson
Ralph Peterson
Ralph Peterson
b.1962
drums
. Hayes' more delicate approach may contribute to Off the Cuff's more graceful experience, but the trio can when it wants to, as it does with aplomb on the short but sweet Arlen/Mercer classic, "The Dream's On Me." The veteran Hayes who, over the course of 40 years, has played with legends including Horace Silver
Horace Silver
Horace Silver
1928 - 2014
piano
, Julian "Cannonball" Adderley
Julian
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley
1928 - 1975
saxophone
, Woody Shaw
Woody Shaw
Woody Shaw
1944 - 1989
trumpet
and McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
b.1938
piano
, approaches the music with a largely light touch, although he hits hard on his equally brief and impressive solo over the ending ostinato of "The Dream's On Me," a clear album highlight along with his intro to Germanson's fiery "Brick."



Cannon's a younger player with a less extensive pedigree, but with work ranging from Roy Hargrove

Roy Hargrove
Roy Hargrove
b.1969
trumpet
and Peterson to Sherman Irby
Sherman Irby
Sherman Irby
b.1968
saxophone
and Steve Turre
Steve Turre
Steve Turre
b.1948
trombone
, it's clear that he's a capable player who can (and does) work hand-in-glove with Hayes as a strong rhythm partner, while delivering his own share of strong and confident solo work on tunes including Germanson's ambling "Daytona," where the pianist's riff-based intro leads into a comfortable swing to provide the bassist all the freedom he needs. There may be clear delineation of solos on the disc, but when Cannon and Hayes enter on Germanson's challengingly fervent "Jill's Song," it's clearly an egalitarian unit with strong ties to the Bill Evans
Bill Evans
Bill Evans
1929 - 1980
piano
school.



Germanson, whose history includes work with Pat Martino

Pat Martino
Pat Martino
b.1944
guitar
, Eddie Henderson
Eddie Henderson
Eddie Henderson
b.1940
trumpet
and Tom Harrell
Tom Harrell
Tom Harrell
b.1946
trumpet
, may fit firmly in the mainstream, but his harmonic sophistication places him a little more left-of-center than many. His solo piano feature, "The Way of Water," combines abstract impressionism and brief moments of more vibrant expressionism, while he exercises just the right combination of reverence and flexibility on Vernon Duke's enduring ballad, "Autumn in New York," stretching it out to become the disc's longest track without ever overstaying his welcome.



Germanson may not rattle any revolutionary cages with Off the Cuff but it's a compelling set, played with heart and honesty, that demonstrates why mainstream jazz and the music at its foundation continues to possess popular appeal.

Track Listing: Quagmire; Jill's Song; Daytona; Up Jumped Spring; The Time the Dream's on Me; Wives and Lovers; The Way of Water; Autumn in New York; Brick; Any Thoughts?

Personnel: Rick Germanson: piano; Gerald Cannon: bass; Louis Hayes: drums.

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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