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3x3: Piano Trios, vol. II

Geno Thackara By

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Tubis Trio
Flashback
AudioCave
2018

Sophisticated chops? Check. Solid chemistry? Definitely. Knowledge of jazz tradition combined with determination to avoid sitting still? Of course. Maciej Tubis and his cohorts in the Tubis Trio certainly check all the proper boxes expected of a professional combo. Beyond that, though, they distinguish themselves with a sheer fun factor that's practically irresistible. With a palpable joy in playing and a string of melodic hooks catchy as all get-out, Flashback offers an infectiously sunny romp without sacrificing any smarts.

That's not to overlook a couple slower moments of beauty; the trio finds some impressive light and shade in meditative spots such as "Esteem" and the hypnotic extended title track. "Roadrunner" spins a groove any prog-rock combo would be proud of, seesawing between 4/4 and 7/4 with effortless-sounding flair. Paweł Puszczało makes his double bass sound as punchy as its electric counterpart while Przemysław Pacan's drumming occasionally tips into rock-and-roll-wildman territory. Nonetheless, the cheery sunshine vibe is the one that wins out in the end. However much depth and craft there is on display, Flashback never lets the good times stop rolling.

LRK Trio
Urban Dreamer
Losen Records
2018

It's surely no coincidence that flights of imagination remain a key theme for the LRK Trio as they follow up on the stimulating creative ambition of If You Have a Dream (Losen, 2017). From drummer Ignat Kravtsov's dreamlike cover to the increasingly expansive variety of instruments and sounds, this is a group unafraid to embrace uncertainty and weirdness. No idea is too off-the-wall to explore on their sprawling third outing. Not every flight here is a resounding success, but for these three the bigger mistake would be to play it too safe.

The band's collective virtuosity (particularly Evgeny Lebedev's capering piano leads) still blends any flash with humble charm and an endlessly generous chemistry among all involved. LRK's signature grooves still appeal to both head and feet in fine form. The mix also expands to include accordion, pedal-steel guitar, childlike chimes, frisky danceable rhythms, a string quartet and even an unashamedly romantic ballad crooned by JD Walter. That last actually makes for one of the oddest moments midway through, simply because it sounds dropped in from a different album entirely (sincere as it may be on its own). Ultimately, though, their ever-developing style is as accessible and omnivorous as ever. If the headlong rush to beat their own path leaves Urban Dreamer less cohesive than its predecessors, even the misfires make the journey more interesting along the way.

Benito Gonzalez/Gerry Gibbs/Essiet Okon Essiet
Passion Reverence Transcendence
Whaling City Sound
2018

The members of this trio understand what a deep pool they're diving into by paying tribute to a figure as distinguished as McCoy Tyner. They understand that the key lies in honoring his essence and not in mere imitation. Fortunately their creativity and their unshakable respect for their source carry the day admirably. Gerry Gibbs relentessly propels the affair at warp speed while coloring his drum parts with a worldly Afro/Latin percussion (shades of Elvin Jones are inevitable and always welcome). Benito Gonzalez flails and pounds the keys as if he's barely hanging on for the ride; Essiet Okon Essiet manages to anchor the others just enough to keep it all from flying off the rails. They offer a couple easier interludes—a leisurely "Blues on the Corner," and later a solo-piano take on "Naima" that briskly tumbles like a waterfall without overriding the piece's calm beauty. Otherwise, the set is a figurative tsunami that roils and churns with barely a pause for breath. The spirit of the master does indeed run through Passion Reverence Transcendence in all the right ways—it's not just a joyous multicultural celebration of Tyner and his music, but a sonic whirlwind with the uncontrollable force of nature behind it.

Tracks and Personnel

Flashback

Tracks: Rekindled; Wind-Up Tuesday; Perludend; Esteem; Roadrunner; Flashback; Hectic; Karate.

Personnel: Maciej Tubis: piano; Przemysław Pacan: drums; Paweł Puszczało: double bass.

Urban Dreamer

Tracks: Urban Dreamer; Abyss; Lost in Tokyo; Clockwork Doll; Thoughts Of...; Journey for Three; Joy; Akatombo.

Personnel: Evgeny Lebedev: piano, toy piano, sampler, accordion; Anton Revnyuk: upright bass, piccolo bass, electric bass, vocals; Ignat Kravtsov: drums, sampling pad, metallophone, percussion; Varvara Revnyuk: vocal (4); Nicolay Solonovich: cello (2); Konstantin Safyanov: whistle (7); Bosse Savik: pedal steel guitar (8); J.D. Walter: vocal (5); Evgeny Subbotin: violin; Artur Adamyan: violin: Shamil Saidov: viola; Nikolay Solonovich: cello.

Passion Reverence Transcendence

Tracks: Fly with the Wind; Just Feelin'; Rotunda; Festival in Bahia; Blues on the Corner; The Greeting You Taught My Heart to Sing; Atlantis; Inner Glimpse; Naima; Tyner Train Express; Between Friends Brazilian Girls.

Personnel: Benito Gonzalez: piano; Gerry Gibbs: drums, percussion, Mini-Moog; Essiet Okon Essiet: bass.

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