It's a bit out of the ordinary when a jazz trio does not include a piano. Perhaps it's even more unusual that an ensemble would be without drums. Yet that is the approach taken by pianist Roger Kellaway for the two-disc Live at The Jazz Standard
Kellaway began playing piano at age seven. His career has included spots with Duke Ellington, Elvis Presley, Joni Mitchell, Dizzy Gillespie and Quincy Jones, among many others. Kellaway has more than 200 album credits. In addition to jazz, he plays and composes classical, pop and even television scores. Live at The Jazz Standard
was recorded over four nights at the New York venue. Accompanying Kellaway are Russell Malone on guitar and Jay Leonhardt on bass. Vibraphonist Stefon Harris and cellist Borislav Strulev sit in on a few tracks.
Duke Ellington's "Cottontail" sets off the first disc. Harris and Kellaway begin in duet before the pianist defers the lead to Harris. Kellaway's solo is as playful as it is technical, and the same is true of Malone's infectious solo.
Strulev plays a tearful introduction to "All My Life," the lone Kellaway original in this set. The other instruments slowly come into the background, with the bass a little more out front. Strulev puts the cello through extreme highs and lows, as well as more midrange notes. The piece isn't necessarily sad, but it is beautiful story told through music.
"Tumbling Tumbleweeds," on the second disc, is an easygoing stroll through the west, with the piano-guitar-bass trio enjoying this delightful jaunt. It starts in walking mode, but later the pace picks up to a trot. The three instruments keep pace with one another, but not necessarily the same number of steps. Malone bounces along, while Leonhardt struts and Kellaway flits and darts.
At nearly 16 minutes, Miles Davis' "Freddie Freeloader" is the longest track in the set. Harris rejoins the trio, taking lead early on. Like much of the album, this song is done in a style reminiscent of small ensembles from the 1940s and '50s. Malone's solo is interesting, especially when he strikes a few rapid-fire lines. Kellaway punches the high keys with vigor during certain spots. After Kellaway's solo, Leonhardt takes a bow to his bassist. Despite the song's epic nature, it doesn't drag at all. The paces changes help.
Combined, the two discs total nearly two hours of music. Kellaway and his sidemen deliver in a big way.