A jazz trio performing songs like "Autumn Leaves" and "Days Of Wine And Roses" isn't exactly out of the ordinary, but this
trio performing those songs is something else. Live At Nighttown: 'Not So Standards'
finds Jiggs Whigham, an American trombone giant who expatriated to Germany long ago, back at home in Cleveland, Ohio, putting on a standards-heavy show. But don't let the playlist fool you. These aren't paint-by-numbers takes on old favorites. The Jiggs Whigham International TrioWhigham, German pianist Florian Weber
, and Rumanian bassist Decebal Badilademonstrates that the structure and syntax of these classics aren't set in stone.
Whigham and company work their way through five familiar numbers and one original here, stretching the fabric of each song in the process. "Days Of Wine And Roses" serves as the first example of how this trio can expand on well-known source material. Whigham's round and centered sound and lyrical qualities shine through; Weber provides gap-filling lines, colorful chords, splayed statements, and broken lines; and Badila works with a sense of whimsy and swing. While each successive number finds the trio moving in different directions, Whigham's melodic gifts, Weber's idiosyncratic musical personality, and Badila's rhythmically engaging qualities prove to be important ingredients in all of them.
As the program continues, so do the classics. "Autumn Leaves" shines a light on Weber's versatility as he sets the mood with a fixed pattern and some angular thoughts, delivers hammered chords behind Whigham, runs along during his solo stand, and provides light, upper register plinks behind Badila. Next is "Steve (Dedicated To Steve Gray)," the only original on the program. It's a number that gives pause to admire the relationship between pianist and trombonist, with Weber's angular, avant-Baroque exploits introducing this staid, ballad-esque beauty. Then there's "Someday My Prince Will Come," opening with uncertainty as pedal point eighth notes, abstract thoughts, and slow glissandos come forth. Eventually, the trio settles into a standard waltz feel, flirts with a more down-home feel in four, and fades away with the same sense of mystery that ushered in the song.
The set comes to an end with two more classicsa version of "Bags' Groove" that's a straight-up blues trip and a take on "St. Thomas" that emphasizes the joys of calypso. The former proves to be the most conventional performance on the album, but the latter finds this group doing what it does best: straddling the fence that separates convention from ingenuity. Jiggs Whigham mostly travels to familiar places during this hour-long set, but he succeeds in circumventing banality with his choice of route(s)the roads less traveled, not the standard(s) super highways.
Days Of Wine And Roses; Autumn Leaves; Steve (Dedicated To Steve Gray); Someday My Prince Will Come; Bags' Groove; St. Thomas.
Jiggs Whigham: trombone; Florian Weber: piano; Decebal Badila: bass.