Though the draw of a piano trio is most usually the ivory-tickler, the success of the group is dependent on the rhythm section. For years, McCoy Tyner had a trio with two younger players whose best characteristic was their deference to Tyner, leading to tepid music. Tyner then replaced them with George Mraz and Al Foster and regained a large measure of his bombast. At the Blue Note Dec 12th, another change was afoot - Tyner in tow with two legendary fusioneers, bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Billy Cobham. I went for the novelty but most of the exuberant crowd came more for Mahavishnu and Return to Forever memories than to hear Coltrane's longtime pianist. The results were mixed. Given the fusion model of everything played loud and fast, all the subtleties of Tyner's playing were stripped away in favor of one long crescendo. While there is no disputing the musical ability of the three, particularly Clarke solely and uncommonly on upright, the group rarely came together. The one time they did, after a remarkable bass and drum intro, the music was superb and energetic. The Tyner pieces which dominated the set were not written for this muscular a rhythm section and the pianist's normally heavy chord voicing seemed clunky rather than dense. When, towards the end of the set, Tyner played a solo piece, the audience had an opportunity to hear a more restrained and inventive Tyner but chances are that is not what they came for.
~ Andrey Henkin
John Hicks brought a superb trio into Sweet Rhythm Dec. 2nd to thrill audiences with some stirring and exciting piano music. Joined by bassist Curtis Lundy and drummer Victor Lewis, Hicks stretched out masterfully in the emotionally charged style that belongs to him alone. Inspired by the presence of Kenny Barron in the audience, he kicked off the final set Friday night with a powerful rendition of "Sunshower". Starting off softly, he quickly dug into the familiar chord changes for one of his multiclimatic solos, his bandmates intuiting his every move. Lundy followed with an impressive bowed solo, the leader comping sensitively and Lewis playing dynamically with brushes. The band swung straight ahead on an up-tempo version of "Beautiful Friendship" that featured the drummer in a series of exhilarating eight bar exchanges. The room quieted to a hush for the ballad "Easy To Remember", which featured Hicks' introspective lyricism at its best, as well as more fine bowing and brushwork from Lundy and Lewis respectively. The trio finished with a burning hard bopping performance of the Miles Davis theme "Go-Go" that literally had people stomping their feet and screaming. Hicks satisfied the audience's unyielding demands for an encore with a solo recital of Billy Strayhorn's "Lotus Blossom".
Christian McBride rocked a sold out house the second set Thursday, December 30th at Jazz Standard with a show that proved that a jazz band could be soulful without sacrificing sophistication. Starting off with a rousing rendition of the Spinner's hit "I'm Comin' Home" that began with drummer Terreon Gulley laying down a funky New Orleans rhythm anchored by McBride's big bottom, the band alluded to the grooving sounds of Weather Report and the Jazz Crusaders while remaining thoroughly modern. Geoff Keezer was impressive manning a battery of keyboards with amazing aplomb while Ron Blake's powerful tenor rode smoothly over the trio's incessant groove. The saxophonist turned in a beautifully lyrical performance on his own "Shades of Brown", which preceded McBride's introduction of Melissa Walker who moved the audience with Bobby and Pamela Watson's "Love Remains". The singer continued tenderly with Janis Ian's reminiscent "Seventeen" (featuring Blake's flute) and her own stirring lyric to Tex Allen's gospel-tinged "Love Is". Then McBride counted off an up-tempo version of "Yesterdays" that had the whole group swinging hard over his fast-walking bass while Walker showed off her marvelous articulation and expansive range. A solo acoustic bass recital of "Night Train" showcased the leader's awesome virtuosity. before switching to fretless Fender for a frenzied no-holds-barred band finale on "Boogie-Woogie Waltz".
~ Russ Musto
Recommended New Releases:
– Faruq Z. Bey/Northwoods Improvisers - Auzar (Entropy)
– Cosmosamatics - Reeds & Birds (Not Two)
– Bill Frisell/Richter 858 Quartet - Music of Bill Frisell (Songlines)
– Rudresh Mahanthappa - Mother Tongue (Pi)
– Bruno Raberg - Chrysalis (Orbis Music)
– Eri Yamamoto - Colors (Jane Street)
~ Laurence Donohue-Greene (Managing Editor, AllAboutJazz-New York)
– Jerry Bergonzi/Andy LaVerne - Intuition (SteepleChase)
– François Carrier - Play (482 Music)
– Joel Harrison - So Long 2nd Street (ACT Music)
– Jeff Parker - The Relatives (Thrill Jockey)
– Bruno Raberg - Chrysalis (Orbis)
– Introducing the Javier Vercher Trio (Fresh Sound-New Talent)
~ David Adler