Mike Greensill Trio: Live at the Plush Room (2004)
This new release from pianist Mike Greensill is exactly what the title suggests, a live appearance at San Francisco's Plush Room, and it's a pleasure to listen to. It's a throwback to the days when diners, drinkers and jazz afficionados could just sit back and soak up a well played set by a jazz piano trio. There are no dazzling pianistic runs or any particular star turns by the group members, just a well coordinated 75 minutes of choice standards and, generally speaking, avoidance of tired examples from the Great American Songbook.
I've heard Mr. Greensill play piano many times as an accompaniest for his wife, Wesla Whitfield, the San Francisco-based singer who has established herself as a premiere cabaret/jazz vocalist, and as such, Greensill has travelled the world and played some of the most prestigious concert venues as well as pricey clubs. To the best of my knowledge, this is his first recording as a leader.
Mike Greensill opens the album singing Bob Dorough's "I've Got Just About Everything" and closes with "Small Day Tomorrow" by the same composer; he also includes a third vocal interpretation of Dorough's "Better Than Anything." To no one's surprise, Greensill feels an affinity towards Dorough, the vocalist, and his three efforts are delivered in the same cool manner. It's not imitative but simply a statement that this is how the songs should be sung. The set list visits the works of Nicholas Brodzsky for three tunes, and I especially liked the probing ballad "I'll Never Stop Loving You" and "Wonder Why." The Young and Washington classic "Stella by Starlight" starts life as a ruminative ballad and then switches to a finger-popping mid-tempo pace. Greensill contributes two originals: the ballad "A Dry Guy," featuring an introspective solo by bassist John Wiitala; and a bluesy take on "Blues Noir," which also gives the bassist stretching room.
Greensill is quite obviously a melody player, and the attention he lavishes on these songs makes it seem as if the head was just as important as the solo, instead of dashing through the respective melodies. Donald Bailey is the same drummer who you heard with Jimmy Smith during his best period (1956-64) and does an excellent job of being a subtle accompanist as well as providing the kick when necessary. It seems like this group has been intact and working together for some time, and its music is deserving of wider recognition.
Track Listing: I've Got Just About Everything, Love for Sale, I Should Care, A Dry Guy, Stella by Starlight, I'll Never Stop Loving You, It Ain't Necessarily So, Blues Noir, A Time For Love, Better Than Anything, Wonder Why/Be My Love, I Thought About You, Girl of my Dreams, Small Day Tomorrow.
Personnel: Mike Greensill,piano,vocals; John Wiitala, bass; Donald Bailey, drums