The jazz piano trio format has its share of plaudits and pitfalls. One the one hand, it has immense possibilities in terms of orchestration and rhythm. But on the other hand, it's all too easy for the music to turn into background wallpaper for the local cocktail lounge. As such, it's a risky decision to make your debut recording in a trio setting, but pianist Danny Grissett need not worryhe deserves nothing but acclaim for this set, one of the best maiden voyages that I have heard in years.
Only making his move to New York City in 2003, Grissett has nonetheless become a valuable sidemen to some heavy-hitting leaders, including Nicholas Payton, Tom Harrell and Vincent Herring. On Promise, the pianist gets together with bassist Vicente Archer and drummer Kendrick Scott for a recital of originals and standards that give full expression to his range of abilities while avoiding any inclination to wear his chops on his sleeves. This later point is particularly important at a time when it seems that a slew of current pianists from Eldar to Hiromi seem to be trying too hard to dazzle with technique. Don't get me wrong, Grissett is highly skilled, but he chooses to channel his abilities into the emotional impact of his performances.
Coltrane's "Moment's Notice" is a time-worn test of a musician's mettle that can merely sound perfunctory in many hands, but Grissett opens the disc on a positive note by breaking up the flow of the rhythm so that instead of an insistent pulse, there are periods of tension and release. "Autumn Nocturne" also gets a makeover, taken at a brisker pace than usual but retaining the sentimentality of the lyrics. Grissett's own tunes explore a multiplicity of moods and are exigent without being cloying. Just listen to how natural he makes 13/4 sound in the original "Where Do We Go From Here?"
A closing romp through Mulgrew Miller's quicksilver "Eleventh Hour" finds all the pots on in a blistering performance that illustrates the great rapport that Grissett shares with Archer and Scott. All three of these men are at the top of their game, and collectively they've come up with a piano trio set that is as far away from cocktail piano music as it gets. And that's a good thing indeed!
Personnel: Danny Grissett: piano; Vicente Archer: bass; Kendrick Scott: drums.