Only Love Will Stay, a tasteful and even-keeled trio date, embodies seven of Serbian-born guitarist and leader Rale Micic's original compositions and a lone standard, Irving Berlin's venerable "How Deep Is the Ocean." Micic is ably supported by organist Jared Gold and either Johnathan Blake (five tracks) or Geoff Clapp (three) on drums. Micic's themes are respectable but, if you want to hear the trio at its best, go straight to Berlin (Irving, that is). Micic is even brighter and more lyrical there than usual, while the fact that Clapp uses brushes part of the way certainly doesn't hurt the cause. More brushwork would have been welcome throughout the session. Perhaps the sentiment was that as no bass was present, the drums had to double down on timekeeping, but Micic's tempos are so steady and his guiding hand so dependable that the time almost keeps itself.
Micic plays guitar as it should be played, with an abundance of charm and a minimum of discord, for the most part using well-ordered single-note lines to underscore his purpose. Gold is somewhat less harmonious, and there are times (not often) when he and Micic seem more combative than compatiblecertainly unintentional, and perhaps even unavoidable given the disparate nature of their instrumentsone mellow and temperate, the other full-throated and gregarious. As noted, Micic's compositions are admirable albeit several strides short of memorable. Among the best of them are the lively "Even Steven" and "Riverdale" and the tranquil ballad "January." Micic's solos are consistently astute and engaging, Gold's solos are earnest but not always as enticing or cohesive. Clapp and Blake do what drummers do, and there is little cause to set them apart.
In sum, this is a first-rate session by three (make that four) talented musicians whose appreciation of and dedication to Micic's blueprint is clear. That is more than enough to raise it above the norm.
Only Love Will Stay; Even Steven; How Deep Is The Ocean; Better Days Ahead; January; Savas; Riverdale; Lipe Cvatu
(Linden Trees Are In Bloom)
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