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Given their reputation for great live performances throughout their 25-year history, it's hard to believe that the String Trio of New York's 14th album is their first live release, but it's true. Gut Reaction is also the recording debut of the trio's newest member, violinist Rob Thomas, who joined stalwarts guitarist James Emery and bassist John Lindberg. Culled from three nights at the Jazz Standard, the trio proves that despite the lack of percussion, it's not just "chamber jazz" or "neo-classical" music - it swings with intensity.
The CD is built around two three-part suites, one composed by Lindberg, the other by trumpeter Dave Douglas. Lindberg's "Nature, Time, Patience" is a thematic piece that opens around a bowed-bass groove and quick, unison melody punctuations. It builds to faster tempo walking bass lines, which Thomas and Emery weave themselves around. But it is Lindberg - as it is in so many pieces - who holds the material together, giving it shape and rhythm. Douglas's "In So Many Worlds," written for pianist Jaki Byard, highlights his compositional nods to classical music, exploring wide dynamic range and strong, lyrical melodies. Comparing the trio's version and Douglas' own recorded version reveals how the trio extends the improvised sections to allow more solos, while still holding the song's form.
The remainder of the CD consists of three Emery originals. "Upstart," the opener, is a clever romp featuring Emery's clean picking style and a blurring solo incorporating fast strumming and clean single note runs. Conversely, "Ode" is a quiet ballad that shows the trio's more restrained, melodic side. The fast-paced "Offspring" closes the disc and showcases Thomas' fiery violin.
Gut Reaction is testimony to the String Trio of New York's repute for great live performances, which shows no signs of slowing down.
Track Listing: 1. Upstart (Emery) - 11:22
2. Nature, Time, Patience: Nature (Lindberg) - 6:29
3. Nature, Time, Patience: Time (Lindberg) - 8:40
4. Nature, Time, Patience: Patience (Lindberg) - 6:46
5. Ode (Emery) - 5:51
6. In So Many Worlds: Ecstatic (Douglas) - 4:21
7. In So Many Worlds: Mournful (Douglas) - 5:40
8. In So Many Worlds: In Praise (Douglas) - 6:15
9. Offspring (Emery) - 7:08
Personnel: John Lindberg - Bass;
James Emery - Guitar;
Rob Thomas - Violin.