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Roberto Magris Trio: Kansas City Outbound

Dan McClenaghan By

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Italian pianist Roberto Magris has, much in the mode of American piano icon Jessica Williams, melded multiple influences to shape his style. He channels McCoy Tyner, John Coltrane's pianist in his 1960's rise to jazz stardom, on Kansas City Outbound's opener/title tune. Dense chords and a powerful percussive attack are the well-executed game plan for the tune. Considering the bassist on this piano trio set, the connection's not surprising. In a small degree of Coltrane/Tyner separation, the late Art Davis, bassist on Trane's Ole Coltrane (Atlantic Records, 1961), Africa Brass (Impulse!, 1961) and Ascension (Impulse!, 1965), lays the foundation on the dark, churning rhythmic insistence of the Magris-penned Kansas City Outbound—both the high-energy tune and the CD.

With a mix of Great American Songbook tunes like "I Fall in Love Too Easily," "Darn That Dream," and "Alone Together," the pianist has added some jazz classics like Thelonious Monk's "Bemsha Swing" and Andrew Hill's "Reverend Du Bop," wrapped around four of Magris' own top level compositions, to create one of the more engaging piano trios sets of the year.

Magris' timely "Iraqi Blues" eschews political statement. The tribute to the people who have died in the war-torn country seems not angry, but full of sorrow and forward momentum, teetering on the edge of chaos, seeming to ask the question "is there hope?" between Cecil Taylor-like keyboard bursts.

On Billy Strayhorn's "A Flower is a Lovesome Thing," Magris explores an Art Tatum mood via Oscar Peterson, perhaps, with light flourishes and sharp, zinging notes. "Reverend Du Bop" drifts inward in a way that, like much of Hill's songbook, shifts back and forth over the simplicity/complexity border, showcasing Magris' subtle keyboard touch.

"Bemsha Swing" opens with Taylor muscling the melody, soon joined by Magris' fingers dancing adroitly through its Monkian angles, while in a reverent take on Benny Carter's Lonely Woman," Magris sounds absolutely lovely.

In a year featuring numerous excellent piano trio outings, Kansas City Outbound sits on the top shelf, gleaming with the best of them.

Track Listing: Kansas City Outbound; I Fall in Love Too Easily; Iraqi Blues; A Flower is a Lovesome Thing; KC Inbound; Reverend Du Bop; Rainbow Eyes; Bemsha Swing; Lonely Woman; Darn That Dream; Alone Together; Bye Bye Baby.

Personnel: Roberto Magris: piano; Art Taylor: bass; Jimmy "Junebug" Jackson: drums (1-3, 8); Zack Albetta: drums (5-7, 10-12).

Title: Kansas City Outbound | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Self Produced

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