Gary Peacock Trio Regattabar Jazz Club Cambridge, MA November 10, 2017
Veterans' Day was an appropriate date for this show, which was indeed a concert of veterans. Gary Peacock served in the army in the 1950s, and the three musicians on stage that evening could count over 150 years combined on the bandstand, side by side with luminaries like Miles Davis
, Michael Brecker
, John Zorn
, and so many more. Peacock has been leading the group since 2014, when his 31-year run with Keith Jarrett
's "Standards Trio" finally came to a close, and they played through a set of standards with an ease that comes only with long familiarity with, devotion to, and love for this music.
It was below freezing outside, the first frost of the season. Inside, though, the Regattabar Jazz Club was buzzing with energy. They were turning people away from the door when I arrived. I sat at a small table with two young men arm-deep in a hummus plate and a discussion about the state of the modern jazz saxophonist. "Trane played a lot of notes, but he still grooved... If you don't groove. I dunno."
At 7:42, the Regattabar's requisite announcement came through the sound system, and the band walked in. Peacock took a moment to tune, then opened the set with a bass solo. He has a deep, rich tone and a steady sense of pace. Baron and Copland entered softly behind him. This is a classic piano trio with a twist: the bass is out front with the piano playing the supporting role.
Over the course of the next ninety minutes, the trio took the standards for a stroll, walking through styles and working out ideas in real time with expert attention and a lighthearted sense of joi de vivre. The set was thoroughly structured, even formulaic. Of the six tunes, the first five started with a solo instrumentalist in rotating order -bass, piano, drums -before the rest of the band joined for head and solos. Only the final piece diverged from the pattern, with the whole trio playing through from top to bottom. But the improvisation was original, and delightful.
This group has an aesthetic of beauty, not of striving. They've been around the block for long enough that they don't need to prove anything to anyone, and instead focus on the sensitive interplay of voices and masterful shaping of phrases. Baron rarely just keeps time; he pushes melodies around the kit with sticks, brushes, and his bare hands. Copland balances thoughtful lines across the top of the keyboard with dense chords and pulsing ostinato figures beneath. And Peacock leads the ensemble from the bottom of the register, each note artfully placed against the framework of the piece he's playing.
A show by the Gary Peacock Trio is like a fine symphony orchestra concert. There's no talking from the stage, not even to introduce the musicians. The program is coherent and thoughtfully arranged from beginning to end. And the performance is unquestionably excellent.
They closed with one last standard as an encore, Young and Washington's "My Foolish Heart." True to form, Peacock opened with solo bass before Baron and Copland brought it all together for a very classy rendition of the tune and a vamping coda that seemed to pull in bits of Stevie Wonder and 80's hits under a veneer of modern jazz.
Peacock, Copland, and Baron walked out to the sound of a full room clapping. Since the beginning of the night, there was not a word from the stage, but they sure said a lot.