It’s not chamber music just because you play it without a drummer; it could be jazz even though it was written by Ravel. That statement might be too long to be a title for bassist Rick McLaughlin's new trio disc, but it certainly is accurate. McLaughlin employs two fellow members of Boston’s Either/Orchestra, pianist Greg Burk and saxophonist Jeremy Udden, to realize this recording.
The disc opens with the difficult “Assev Vif - Très Rhythmé.” Ravel’s piece for string quartet establishes the band’s credentials before they open the piece to a bit of "classical improvising." I suppose Mr. Ravel might object, but their meandering toward a deeper meaning here seems to be fair play.
By the end of the disc they come full circle to the jazz standard “Without A Song” and Ellington’s “Isfahan.” McLaughlin anchors both tracks with a solid walking bass in what is standard time. His playing comes from the lyrical Ron Carter tradition of classical jazz bassists.
What distinguishes this recording is the simplicity these musicians consent to serve. Pianist Greg Burk whose prior recording Checking Out showcased a variety of piano styles, approaches this recording as a team player, keeping the frills and trills to a minimum. So does saxophonist Jeremy Udden, playing the jazz straight and the semi-classical with an improvised flourish.
Favorite tracks here are the sweet Weber piece “Colours Of Chloë,” and “O.P.” for Oscar Pettiford, where all due attention remains focused on the coolness of Maughlin’s walking bass.
The concept for the album comes together best on McLaughlin’s “Marina,” written for his wife. It opens, as he notes, with a nod to Bach, before shifting into a Latin theme. Udden’s prodding soprano saxophone responds to every note of Burk’s South American vacation. The song is gently lifted ever higher by the trio as it resolves back toward Bach and McLaughlin’s repeated bass line.
Personnel: Rick McLaughlin - Bass; Greg Burk - Piano; Jeremy Udden - Saxophones.