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Bruce Barth Trio: New York City, March 3, 2011

Emilie Pons By
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Bruce Barth Trio
Smalls
New York City, USA
March 3, 2011

On Thursday night, March 3, 2011, at Smalls in New York City, pianist Bruce Barth, bassist Vicente Archer and drummer Adam Cruz delighted an audience of jazz aficionados, gathered for a lovely CD release party for Bruce Barth Trio, The Flail, and the surprising Cyrille Aimee + Friends, with singer Aimee's beautifully raucous and raspy voice quieting the chatty room of jazz lovers to a hush. All three groups are on SmallsLIVE, the one year-old record label headed by pianist Spike Wilner, Smalls' partner and manager. Wilner, who also performed that evening, is on Aimee's album, as is trumpeter Roy Hargrove.

Wilner's label has recorded the likes of Jeremy Pelt, Luis Perdomo, Ari Hoenig, Mulgrew Miller, Steve Wilson, and many other enlightened performers. Live recordings at Smalls, which is what the label is about, allow some of the most riveting music to continue being alive and true to its authentic improvisational nature, since SmallsLIVE offers total artistic freedom to the musicians, who decide what they want to include in each recording.

Barth's music—full of subtlety, depth and truth—was created by a felicitous connection; a communion between the three inspired artists. During two sets on Thursday evening, Cruz showed real moments of virtuosity and shed light, in many ways, on what the drums are. His rigor and rhythmical creativity kept the dialogue going between the three musicians; also adding, at times, to the softness created by his signature as well as Archer's timber. Barth's Thelonious Monk-ian influences and reminders lovingly mingled with the ravishing interpretation of Billie Holiday's "Good Morning Heartache," and George Gershwin's "My Man's Gone Now." Barth also sounded very Latin at times, as well as bluesy, in the last tune of the first set.

Cruz's latest album, Milestone (Sunnyside, 2011), features saxophonists Miguel Zenon, Steve Wilson and Chris Potter> as well as guitarist Steve Cardenas, pianist Edward Simon and bassist Ben Street. Composed of eight long titles- with "Emje" nearing the 13-minute mark, the CD is a collection of luminous moments, which might in part stem from Cruz's fruitful collaboration with musicians such as pianist Danilo Perez.

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