The wonderful Renee Rosnes doesn't record nearly enough; she's done seven albums since she signed with Blue Note in the late '80s for her self-titled debut. Pas de Trois,
credited to the two Drummonds (Ray and Billy) in the rhythm section and conceived by überproducer Todd Barkan, is on True Life Jazz; its original Japanese title was Letter to Evans
because so many of the tunes were associated with Bill. The recording was intended to reproduce the feel of a night at Bradley's, the late, lamented Greenwich Village club famous for gathering the best pianists in jazz, and it does: with minimal reliance on charts in favor of spontaneous arrangements, the music has the warm, immediate feel of a live session.
Rosnes has a gift for blowing the dust off standards, making them sound fresh and personal, and her comping is always unusually sensitive and melodic. Here she has impeccable support from the Drummonds: Ray the bassist takes some wonderful solos, and Billy the drummer (and Renee's husband) is intricate and perfectly attuned. Pas de Trois means dance of three, an apt description of the trio's communal energy: strong without being aggressive, companionable and fluid.
Their pallette here ranges from swinging versions of "You and the Night and the Music," "Pas de Trois," "I Hear a Rhapsody" and the burner, "Golden Earrings," to mid-tempo versions of "My Romance" and "Emily" that give new pulse to those classics. "Rhapsody" is pure stretch-out joy, while "Too Young to Go Steady" demonstrates how to keep a ballad consistently interesting and moving, even when the material is less than stellar. The record includes a beautiful version of Wayne Shorter's "Miyako" as a tribute to the year Rosnes spent with his band (1988), and ends with a celestial "Haunted Heart," introduced with one of the loveliest piano solos I've ever heard.
Pas de Troix is a refreshing, thoroughly entertaining recording from a classy trio. Check it out if you haven't heard Rosnes and the Drummonds; if you have, you need no encouragement from me.
Personnel: Renee Rosnes (piano), Ray Drummond (bass), Billy Drummond (drums).