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Bill Stewart, Stanton Moore, Tobias Gebb: A Trio of Drum Trios

C. Michael Bailey By

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Drum trios? Drum trios and not piano trios or guitar trios? The three releases considered here are by drummer-led trios. They offer vastly differing approaches to performing both standards and original compositions. Bill Stewart, Stanton Moore, and Tobias Gebb all aim to accomplish the same goal—making music—but that is where the similarity ends.

Bill Stewart

Bill Stewart emerged on the jazz scene in the mid-1990s as part of guitarist John Scofield's working group, but this is not all of his pedigree. Saxophonist Maceo Parker tapped Stewart to provide percussion on Roots Revisited (Verve, 1990). Largely self-taught (and a capable pianist), Stewart studied with vibraphonist Dave Samuels, bassist Rufus Reid and pianist Harold Mabern. With this impressive resume, Stewart embarked on his musical career.

On Incandescence, Stewart employs the odd assembly of organ-piano-drums (the bass component provided by Larry Goldings' feet on his Hammond B-3). While this may sound like a musical train wreck, the format is actually very accommodating to the drummer/leader in allowing his instrument to have an almost- melody carrying role in the group. Stewart takes full advantage of his exposure on "Portals Opening" where his shimmering cymbal work is put on display over the plaintive piano figures of Kevin Hays and the murmuring organ of Larry Goldings.

While Incandescence is Bill Stewart's recording, Goldings and Hays are by no means simple bystanders. "Four Hand Job" smacks of 1970s Yes virtuosity in the head, with the remainder of the rather free form piece winding in and out of dedicated ensemble playing and general cacophonous chaos. Hays plays tasty flourishes throughout. "Tell A Televangelist" is a tongue-in-cheek carnival ride ditty that best incorporates all of the principles in Stewart's trio.

Incandescence is heady, smart music and it expands the jazz organ repertoire (a function Goldings has been filling since he started). Hays is notable for his durable style, somewhat reminiscent of Horace Silver in his hard bop approach. But Stewart is the star here and he shines as brightly as his cymbals.

Stanton Moore Trio
Emphasis On (Parenthesis)
Telarc Jazz

Stanton Moore follows III (Telarc, 2006) with another exploration of 1970s garage rock in Emphasis On (Parenthesis). I am not so sure I would call this jazz, but it is fun as hell. Renowned for his bands Garage a Trois and Galactic, Moore effectively puts the electric "unk" in funk no matter what format of band he is fronting. A native of New Orleans, his drumming is a rich rue of fatback funeral brass band, electric blues steamroller, and ragtime in the bagtime.

This is an amazingly noisy and ill-behaved recording—and I mean this in the best possible sense. Listen to Emphasis On (Parenthesis) and think of Iron Butterfly if that band had been made up of talented musicians, none of whom sing. Guitarist Will Bernard makes no attempt to adopt a round jazz tone in his playing. He has got that 1970s tube feed-back, ultra-compressed, ultra sustained tone that every teenager of the period yearned to creat.

Collectively, Emphasis On (Parenthesis) is a tone poem of the great rock and jazz-rock music created in that turbulent decade that gave us disco, cocaine, and AIDS. It is loud and disturbing, propelled by Moore's nuclear backbeat and Robert Walker's slashing "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" B-3.

Trio West
An Upper Westside Story
Yummy House Records

Tobias Gebb and Trio West debuted on disc with Trio West Plays Holiday Songs (Yummy House Records, 2007). This was an auspicious beginning to say the least, but it was a smart one, being released in November, anticipating the holiday season. Add to this that the disc was excellent and you have got what adds up to a good start.

Following that auspicious beginning presents Gebb and company quite the challenge. However, Trio West meets it head on and surpasses expectations. Gebb adds New York saxophonist Joel Frahm and vocalist Champian Fulton to the mix generating heat for future collaborations between the trio and these artists. "The Barnyard" is great fun, with Frahm playing measured Oliver Nelson saxophone, reminding the listener of Nelson's "Hoedown."

Gebb's trio is a fully formed unit that brightly updates the piano trios of the past led by the likes of Vince Guaraldi, Dave Brubeck, and Red Garland. Pianist Eldad Zvulun is gleefully free of Bill Evans influences, having a style and approach all of his own that is both harmonically and melodically competent. Fulton belts out a perfectly retro-modern "What A Little Moonlight Can Do," raising hopes for a full album collaboration between her and the trio. An Upper Westside Story is an excellent jazz recording and one to be very excited about.

Tracks and Personnel


Tracks: Knock On My Door; Toad; Portals Opening; Opening Portals; See Ya; Four Hand Job; Tell A Televangelist; Metallurgy; Incandescence.

Personnel: Larry Goldings: accordion, Hammond B-3 organ; Bill Stewart: drums; Kevin Hays: piano.

Emphasis On (Parenthesis)

Tracks: (Late Night At The) Maple Leaf; (Proper) Gander; Wissions (Of Vu;) (Sifting Through The) African Diaspora; Over (Compensatin'); (Smell My) Special Ingredients; (I Have) Super Strength; (Who Ate The) Layer Cake?; Thanks! (Again); (Put On Your) Big People Shoes; (Here Come) The Brown Police.

Personnel: Stanton Moore: drums; Robert Walter: Hammond B-3 organ; Will Bernard: guitar.

An Upper Westside Story

Tracks: Poinciana; What Time Is It?; Brasil Bela; The Barnyard; Star-Crossed Lovers; Autumn Serenade; Cute; Will O'The Wisp; What a Little Moonlight Can Do; Two By Two; How Deep Is The Ocean; The Monument (Soldiers and Sailors); And I Love Her.

Personnel: Tobias Gebb: drums and percussion; Eldad Zvulun: piano; Neal Miner: bass; Miles Brown: bass; Joel Frahm: tenor saxophone; Champian Fulton: vocals.


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