Rale Micic has emerged over the past few years as one of the most interesting young guitarists on the New York City scene. Beginning with Bridges, a fantastic quintet date from 2003 featuring some exciting saxophone work from Bob Reynolds, and continuing on 2006's Serbia featuring the great Tom Harrell on trumpet, Micic has established a style that, while indebted to giants like Jim Hall and John Scofield, is recognizably his: a clean, rich, classic tone; clarity of line; spaciousness in chordal passages, and the adoption of melodic and rhythmic motifs of his native Serbia. On 3, his latest release on the excellent CTA label, Micic has pared the band down to a trio, with the ubiquitous (and rightfully so) Scott Colley on bass and sensitive drumming by Gregory Hutchinson. This is a groove-heavy, softly rolling record that offers 56 minutes of pure pleasure, the ultimate disc to throw on after a tough day in the salt mines.
What 3 lacks is the variety of the earlier records, with no tempos ever exceeding a genial lope that, while making for a unified listening experience, does sap a bit of the excitement out of the proceedings. That said, for those who listen intently, rather than simply relax on the couch with a glass of wine in one hand and a loved one in the other (not a bad idea, that), 3 offers manifold rewards. The brooding blues riffer "Gybanitza" is infectious, as is the best track on the album, "The World Doesn't End," which has a catchy stop-time refrain and an arching bass line that will be difficult to extract from your head for days afterwards. "Serbology" gets a lovely dark-hued trio reading, with the space that Micic leaves almost as palpable as the variations on the melody that he spins throughout. On the chamber music-like "Pannonia" (not the Monk tune "Pannonica," as I initially misread it, wondering why I couldn't make out what Micic was doing with it!), the guitarist doubles his electric musings with some classical guitar arpeggios, to lovely, time-stopping effect.
As accomplished as all this is, one does long for a bit more grit, which the trio confines primarily to the groove tune "Dealin,'" where Micic's solo builds a real head of steam, with just a bit of Scofield-like crunch added to his tone. That said, on the softer side of guitar trio albums, Micic's latest is at the top of the heap, an entertaining disc that shows off the interplay between these fine players and features some nice writing by the leader.
Dealin'; The World Doesn't End; I Love You; Serbology; Pannonia; Naïve art; Three of a Kind; Thirty Three; Night Has a 1000 Eyes; Gybanitza.
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