Connoisseurs of jazz trios led by pianists may be familiar with bassist Paul Klinefelter's contribution to Ron Thomas's superb Music in Three Parts (Art of Life Records, 2006). That particular piano trio outing, one of that year's finest, featured Klinefelter's big bass sound interacting in a three-way Zen dance with pianist Thomas and the extraordinary drummer Joe Mullen. Night Mood, by contrast, finds Klinefelter in the leader's seat on a set that mixes styles and shifts line-ups on a polished, top-level jazz disc.
This set of Klinefelter originals opens with the title tune, written in the mid-'80s when the bassist played with the Steve Giordano Quintet. With that particular lineup back in place, "Night Mood" drifts in on a guitarist Giordano's zither-like guitar figure, joined by trumpeter Bob Meashey and flutist Marc Adler. The ballad floats beautifully, tethered by Klinefelter's in-the-pocket bass lines and drummer Joe Mullen's resonant percussive bustle.
"Hectic Street" bumps up the tempo and brightens the mood. It brings in the daylight on John Swana's tangy trumpet, leading into a spirited piano solo by Terry Klinefelter (Paul's wife) rolling on the rollicking bass/drum rhythm. "Trouper Duke" conjures images of John Wayne on a lazy ride across a wide prairie, opening on Matt Davis' twanging western guitar and George Rabbai's relaxed trumpet blowing long elastic lines. Another highlight is "Stumblefunk," a tune that sounds like an outtake from the marvelous-but-overlooked Miles Davis/Marcus Miller collaboration Amandla (Warner Brothers, 1989). The mood here is streetwise but a bit ominous, with trumpeter Swana sounding very Miles-like on his muted horn in front of keyboardist Ron Thomas and Klinefelter supplying a turbulent electric urban feeling.
The disc closes in a sparer mode, going the piano trio route with Terry Klinefelter in the keyboard seat on "Room without a Window." The gorgeous sound begins with an inward look then cranks up the momentum to cook along in a bright 3/4 time. "Pastorale" teams the leader in a pensive, peaceful duet with pianist Thomas that plays like a closing prayer. It provides a folksy and approachable, yet cerebral, and perhaps spiritual conclusion to a fine set of music.
Night Mood; Hectic Street; Trooper Duke; Stumblefunk; Blue Mountain Bossa Nova; Camel Humps; Room Without a Window; Pastorale.
Paul Klinefelter: acoustic and electric bass; Terry Klinefelter: piano (2, 7); Ron Thomas: piano, keyboards: (4, 8); Joe Mullen: drums; Bob Meashy: trumpet, flugelhorn: (1, 6); John Swana: trumpet (2, 4); George Rabbai: trumpet, flugelhorn (3); Marc Adler: flute (1, 6); Steve Giordano: guitar (1, 6); Matt Davis: guitar (3).