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Joshua Espinoza Trio: Journey Into Night

Dan McClenaghan By

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"Let's all get up,
And dance to a tune
That was a hit
Before your mother was born."


So said Paul McCartney, way back in another century, on the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour (Capitol, 1968).

On his debut release, pianist Joshua Espinoza gets into that McCartney-esque frame of mind (sitting at the keyboard rather than dancing), opening with Burt Bacharach's classic "Always Something There to Remind Me," released as a single by Lou Johnson in 1963, and by Dionne Warwick in 1968—a hit, perhaps, before Espinoza's mother was born. Then he moves into John Lennon's "In My Life," from the Beatles' Rubber Soul (Capitol, 1965).

Starting out with familiar melodies is smart sequencing, especially with tunes as engaging as these. And even more so when the pianist and his trio mates are this facile. Espinoza has an elegant touch. Bassist Mikel Combs and drummer Jaron Lamar Davis roll in a mostly understated and supportive roll, with accenting moments of high energy. And, like Keith Jarrett's Standards Trio, they begin by playing the tune, then they are sort of not playing the tune—as they take the melodic ideas and run with them, improvising—and then come back to playing the tune again.

And they do this very well.

Off to a great and enticing start, the rest of the set does not disappoint. The pianist's original, "Streetlight Serenade" is full of shadows and restless beauty. "Nocturne For Anna Marie," another Espinoza original, sounds like a nineteenth century classical piece—a floating, timeless sound. Duke Ellington's "Take the "A" Train" opens bumping and rumbling down the track, then it swings, in the best Ellingtonian fashion. And the traditional "Shenandoah" (to go way back before any of our mothers were born) glows with solemnity, Espinoza playing it sparely, bass and drums laying down an understated orchestral backdrop.

"Desperado," a 1973 hit by the rock group the Eagles, closes things the way the trio opened. It is a reminder of just how sad and lovely the song is. Exquisitely done.

Track Listing: Always Something there To Remind Me; In My Life; Streetlight Serenade; Nocturne For Anna Marie; Take The A Train; Shenandoah; Unwelcome Dream; Birdsong; Desperado.

Personnel: Joshua Espinoza: piano; Mikel Combs: bass; Jaron Lamar Davis: drums.

Title: Journey Into Night | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Self Produced

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