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Steve Blanco Trio: Piano Warrior

Glenn Astarita By

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A true piano warrior in every sense, Steve Blanco's second solo release offers an expansion to applications previously encountered via Contact, his independent 2006 trio debut. He offers the antidote to the customary trio format with an abundance of jazz-based thematic forays that project a contrasting spell to the typical ballad-bop-swing concepts.

Blanco combats any semblance of piano trio listening fatigue with explosive themes, subtle nuances and unanticipated shifts in tempo. The crack rhythm section abets the leader's cause as they mix it up with off kilter hooks, and avant-garde breakdowns amid transformations of jazz stylizations into hard-hitting grooves. Blanco also renders massive block chords against snappy rock pulses while injecting mesmeric crescendos into various regions of sound.

It's a divergent set, evidenced by the trio's rather sanctified reading of Pink Floyd's "Us and Them" and other pieces, marked by the pianist's fluent reengineered maneuvers. Blanco also fuses swift bop and swing vamps into climactic opuses, all topped off by eloquence and powerful coiling diversions. Another album highlight is steeped within the band's literal reading of Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog." Here, drummer Sunny Jain strokes the bell of his ride cymbal in the same manner as Led Zep drummer John Bonham, yet the trio sojourn's into a raucous jazz meltdown during the bridge.

Blanco veers from the norm but doesn't necessarily stray too far from conventional jazz-centric mechanisms. He straddles the best of many musical worlds, and uncannily merges them into a persuasive vernacular, riding high with striking dynamism and highly entertaining attributes. Here's hoping that Blanco records more often.


Track Listing: Sadness & the Madness; Us and Them; A.V.S.; Piano Warrior; Laughing Planet; Brother Song 2; Underground; 5 3 5; Black Dog; Final Voyage.

Personnel: Steve Blanco: piano; Adam Roberts: bass; Sunny Jain: drums.

Title: Piano Warrior | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Art of Life Records

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