Fire Down Below, from The Steve Elmer Trio, evokes personal memories of being an undergraduate in the early 1960s at Hofstra College on Long Island, N.Y. (soon to be Hofstra University). Pianist Elmer was one of the "jazz guys on campus," entertaining the student body while working towards his B.S.
Iit is quite evident that Elmer has stayed true to his muse, producing a fine example of piano trio jazz that is an exuberant and facile demonstration of his skills as a jazzman as well as those of bassist Hide Tanaka and drummer Shingo Okudaira.
Over the course of several decades, Elmer studied for many years with piano great Lennie Tristano, worked as a music educator for New York's Queens College and was a member of The Jazz Mentality, which also featured saxophonist Chris Potter. His last album as a leader (and his debut) was I Used to be Anonymous (Self Produced, 2006).
Fire Down Below contains ten originals that show Elmer's compositional chops as well as his dynamic playing. The opening "Sister Joan" is a catchy and fast-moving vehicle that Elmer navigates skillfully. "Silhouette" is an attractive tune that bears some melodic resemblance to Luiz Bonfa's "The Gentle Rain."
"Constant Lee" pays homage to one of Tristano's star pupils, altoist Lee Konitz. Tanaka's arco solo is one of the album's highlights, with the bassist receiving plenty of solo space throughout the disc. Elsewhere, Okudaira shows appropriate restraint and emphasis on drums, with the balladic "Lasting Love" poignantly delivered.
Sister Joan; Silhouette; Constant Lee; GA's Jambalaya; Fire Down Below; Lasting Love; Delicate Balance; Tanaka's Hideout; Big Chief Red Cloud; Aaronology.
Steve Elmer: piano; Shingo Okudaira: drums; Hide Tanaka: bass.