Composer/orchestrator/pianist Hans Koller's most groundbreaking achievements to date have been his big band projects, which have picked up and carried forward in the UK the playful and quirky iconoclasm of the late, marvellous Loose Tubes. Mentored early on by veteran experimentalist Michael Gibbs, and building too on Gil Evans' textural inventions, Koller's big bandswhich feature emergent young stylists alongside major names like Stan Sulzmann, Julian Siegel, Henry Lowther, and Evan Parkerare in the tradition but always pushing and tickling the envelope.
This new trio album with bassist Dave Whitford and drummer Gene Calderazzo, regular small group and big band compadres, is a more conventional and rough and ready affair than Koller's big bands. Recorded on-the-hoof in a day last summer, it's a romping, exuberant, standards and head arrangements shaped affair, with consistently dynamic, high energy contributions from all three players (only Bill Frisell's midway "Throughout" and Koller's closing "Paris Blues" cool and slow down to the relatively reflective).
Standouts are Herbie Nichols' "2300 Skidoo" and "The Third World," Mingus' gorgeous "Peggy's Blue Skylight," and Koller's "Wild Roses" and "Paris Blues," the first elliptical, the second lushly lyrical. The two Monk covers, "Pannonica" and "Bye-Ya," don't go anywhere we haven't been before, but they're boss tunes, performed with muscle and respect.
Unapologetically in the pre-EST piano trio traditionin energy, expansiveness and in-the-moment abandonWild Roses harks back to the great trio albums Hampton Hawes made with Red Mitchell and Chuck Thompson in the mid '50s. But unlike Hawes, and as an added bonus, Koller gives generous space to his partners on the bass and drums, and these two men fill it with plenty of their own fire and passion.
Not a revolution then, but a good time ruckus to be sure.
Personnel: Hans Koller, piano; Dave Whitford, bass; Gene Calderazzo, drums.