Jacob Melchior: It's About Time (2010)
Kicking off the nine song collection is a medley of Melchior's own "Dancing Foo" and Johnny Hodges' "Squatty Roo," combining brilliantly into one bouncing cut. It also offers the first insight into Unno's expert piano chops. His expressive while meticulous playing lifts these cuts beyond simple interpretation, helping to distinguish the album. Track after track, his playing is solid, imaginative and technically astute, his soft touch and subtle attack adding emotion to the already wistful melody on a slower cut like "It Might As Well Be Spring."
Shakur's assured playing also makes a strong contribution, not only underpinning the trio's melodic statements, but standing shoulder to shoulder with the piano harmonically. Unno and Shakur also contribute writing credits, with the trio's original "Summer Fair" a lively medium swinger that has a classic jazz trio vibe and allows each player space for creative improvisations. Shakur's bass also anchors this album's balance between space and fill. Each instrumentalist expertly juices the swing, while never overflowing the sonic barrel with needless fireworks. The result is a track like "The Lady Of My Life/My Baby," which has an open landscape while never losing the rhythmic push.
That rhythmic character is the cornerstone of this album, thanks to Melchior's imaginative drumming. Adept at laying down time as well as sonic texture without ever stepping on the trio's toes, the way Melchior accents various phrases or melodic patterns with either an Unno piano fill or a Shakur bass line is especially pleasing. Melchior's talents also include arranging and composing, both of which he does with insight and invention.
A big part of the pleasing, expectant feel on these tracks comes from the way all three musicians expertly pick and choose when to step forward and when to support. This would be a fantastic trio to experience live in a close setting. It's About Time is a gratifying listen that highlights what a trio of musicians can create with their ears open to give-and-take, and the artistry to back it up.
Track Listing: Dancing Foo / Squatty Roo; Brigas Nunca Mais; For All We Know; The Lady of My Life / My Baby; You Don't Know What Love Is / Love Is What; Bird of Beauty; Summer Fair; It Might As Well Be Spring; Lover / Gerry's Wig.
Personnel: Tadataka Unno: piano; Hassan JJ Shakur: bass; Jacob Melchior: drums; Frank Senior: vocals (3).
Record Label: Self Produced