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3x3: Piano Trios: August 2019

Geno Thackara By

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Yoko Miwa Trio
Keep Talkin'
Ocean Blue Tear Music
2019

When Yoko Miwa and her trio-mates get to talking, it's no wonder they only want to keep going and going. Their playful bantering elevates everything on offer here, from a couple venerable standards through a handful of playful originals showing the same jaunty swing. The leader's style shows a fine mix of steadily catchy rhythms at the low end and smooth ear-pleasing leads on top. The vibe of Keep Talkin' is a happy and (just as importantly) energetic one built on good-natured chemistry and an unmistakable sense of fun.

Miwa's eighth release shows the trio in a particular mood to play hard. The rowdiest moment has them tearing through Charles Mingus' "Boogie Stop Shuffle" like it's their last day of freedom. A couple other spots start out thoughtful and still tend to build to a spry bounce before they're over, particularly a mid-set Beatles medley that glows with particular warmth. From those highs to the pensively uplifting ballad at the close, it's always a bright and brainy good time.

Nick Hetko/Rich Syracuse/Jeff "Siege" Siegel
When You Were Here
ARC -Artists Recording Collective
2019

When she was here, the late "First Lady of Jazz" Lee Shaw left a mark on the lives of many others from the bandstand and (perhaps) even more others in the classroom. Her influence makes a central and appropriately upbeat theme for When You Were There. Rich Syracuse and Jeff "Siege" Seigel served as Shaw's rhythm section for a good dozen years, while her mentoring taught Nick Hetko a fine lesson or two about developing a voice at the piano. This unassumingly smart session shows how much she's missed, but fittingly focuses more on her spirit, charm and swing.

Hetko's "Captain of a Sinking Ship" is much more upbeat than the title suggests, for instance, rolling and swelling to a warm finish. The Shaw-penned title track takes a bittersweet turn with mood shadings aplenty; a happy romp through Oscar Peterson's "Oscar's Boogie" is topped off with some spontaneous laughter before the tape stops rolling (a nice touch). Propelled by Siegel's characteristic snappy rhythms and steered by Hetko and Syracuse's sharp melodic rapport, it's a fine tribute full of playfulness and generosity.

Eivind Austad Trio
Northbound
Losen Records
2019

Picturesque and contemplative is the prime mood showcased by this trio in beautifully understated style. The pieces are sound paintings as much as anything else, as evocative and amorphous as the subtly striking cover. Northbound isn't exactly minimalist, but simple and uncluttered enough to let things unwind most delightfully—the three shape each motif with eloquent care and not a note out of place.

Interestingly enough, David Bowie's "Space Oddity" is perhaps the slowest moment here, not really brooding so much as spinning out into emptiness in accordance with its haunting theme. Austad's warm melody lines sometimes fly but more often just flow, always with an impressively organic feel that sometimes belies some not-obvious complexity. Magna Thormodsæter and Håkon Mjåset Johansen make co-creators as much as rhythm partners; the pieces come from Austad's pen at first, but all three feel out the ideas together to find the right natural shape for each one. Conventionally jazzy in a light late-night way or coasting abstractly as a dream, it's always immersive and inviting.

Tracks and Personnel

Keep Talkin'

Tracks: Keep Talkin'; In Walked Bud; Secret Rendezvous; Sunset Lane; Boogie Stop Shuffle; Golden Slumbers/You Never Give Me Your Money; Tone Portrait; Casa Pre-Fabricada; Conversations; If You're Blue; Sunshine Follows the Rain.

Personnel: Yoko Miwa: piano; Will slater: acoustic bass; Scott Goulding: drums; Brad Barrett: acoustic bass (11).

When You Were Here

Tracks: Sleeper; Free Fall; The Float; When You Were There; Captain of a Sinking Ship; Evie's Theme; Oscar's Boogie; Nica; I Fall in Love Too Easily.

Personnel: Nick Hetko: piano; Rich Syracuse: bass; Jeff "Siege" Siegel: drums.

Northbound

Tracks: 7 Souls; Space Oddity; Northbound; Open Minded; Beyond the 7th Ward; Folk; Down That Road; Faith.

Personnel: Eivind Austad: piano; Magna Thormodsæter; bass; Håkon Mjåset Johansen: drums.
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