Piano trio efforts fall flat or fly on mostly nebulous, difficult-to-define aspects of the sound: collective energy, group cohesion, and an ability to get "inside" the music. The classic trios include those led by Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Oscar Petersonto name just a few. To name some contemporay guys who fly, you'd have to mention Keith Jarrett and Brad Mehldau's groups in the higher profile end of the spectrum; and then there's the lesser-known but no less compelling Randy Halberstadt Trio (Parallel Tracks, Origin Records, '04). All of these triosand a bunch still unmentionedfly. And so do Bennett Paster, Gregory Ryan, and Keith Hall, on Skyline.
The trio opens up with a lighthearted, swinging gem, "Jabali," written by pianist Bennett Paster for drummer Jabali Billy Hart. The tune features Paster's loose and ebullient keyboard work over a solid groove. "Her Lullaby," penned by drummer Keith Hall, has a bounce in its step, a bit bright and up-tempo for the purpose of lulling her to sleep perhaps, but a joyous sound over an elastic groove.
Part of the appeal throughout is Paster's willingness, within a mainstream framework, to take chances. He and the trio sound relaxed, optimistic, vivacious, and Paster's hands have an infectious percussive exuberance.
Bassist Gregory Ryan's "Better," as well as the title tunealso by Ryanslow the pace to an introspective mode, both of them lovely ballads. The group also gets inside Coltrane's "Naima," Oliver Nelson's "Yearnin'," and (perhaps the highlight) Leonard Bernstein's "Some Other Time," giving the melody an engaging buoyancy.