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Markus Burger / Joe LaBarbera / Bob Magnusson: Accidental Tourists: The L.A. Sessions

Dan McClenaghan By

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Sometimes a definite connect exists between cover art and the music. German-born pianist Markus Burger's Accidental Tourists: The L.A. Sessions features a glossy cover photo full of reflections and right angle geometry, a sleek car with rounded contours. The music on this trio offering has a well-crafted geometry of its own, and a bright sheen brought out by Burger's clean, crisp touch and engagingly cerebral melodic sense, along with an exquisite feel for deep harmonies.

Burger's first recorded piano trio session reveals a player from pianist Bill Evans' art of the trio school. Like Evans, Burger has picked his sidemen well. Bassist Bob Magnusson—a hugely talented musician in the jazz and classical worlds—is a veteran with a "worked-with-damned-near-everyone" resume, including his contributions to several of alto saxophonist Art Pepper's late career recordings. His big, powerful sound—huge notes with a slight fuzz of sustain in them seem to anticipate Burger's every move; and drummer Joe LaBarbera—a member of pianist Bill Evans' late career trio—adds the perfect subtle textures and detailed accents to the sound.

The set opens with Burger's "Grolnicks," for pianist/composer Don Grolnick (1947-1996). The tune has a light feeling, with a very pretty and memorable melody, and exquisite trio interplay in its wax and wane momentum.

Four of the twelve tunes are from Burger's pen, including the buoyant "Air Canada," the floating "Black Sea Pearl," and prickly snap-and-pop "Rodeo Drive Hustler." The first cover of the disc, George Gershwin's "I Loves You Porgy" is a highlight. It's often covered—by, among many others, pianists Bill Evans and Jessica Williams—and covered well. A small masterpiece of a tune, it has never sounded lovelier than it does here in the hands of this trio. Burger's unhurried, no-wasted-notes approach, Magnusson's thick foundation and LaBarbera's whispering brushes bring out a sense of sweet longing tinged with a bit of sadness.

Other covers include a light-stepping take on Jerome Kern's "In Love in Vain" and a delicate and brittle exploration of the Miles Davis/Bill Evans jewel, "Blue in Green." But in the end, with the exception of "I Loves You Porgy," it's the Burger tunes that grab the ear—infectious, well-crafted compositions played by a stellar trio.


Track Listing: Grolnicks; Air Canada; Black Sea Pearl; Full Circle; I Loves You Porgy; Rodeo Drive Hustler; In Love In Vain; Inspektor Bauton; the Old Country; One World; Morning Smile.

Personnel: Markus Burger: piano; Joe LaBarbera: drums; Bob Magnusson: bass.

Title: Accidental Tourists: The L.A. Sessions | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Challenge Records

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