One of this year's pleasant surprises has been the emergence of drummer Charles Rumback's trio with bassist John Tate and pianist Jim Baker. In fact, their debut, Threes, was so good that it immediately whetted the appetite for more. Who would have thought the wish would be fulfilled so soon?
Tag Book is culled from the same live sessions at Constellation in Chicago as Threes and could be seen as the subdued sibling of its predecessor. It is less epic in its scope, less wild and sprawling and more consequent in its minimalistic, crystalline balladry, but both are lyrical records. Jim Baker can play simple, skeletal melodies that unfold like single notes and lines and suddenly release the tension in a wide landscape of harmony. The melody is always present somewhere in the music and Tate's solid grooves add a slightly funky undercurrent that also respects the spaciousness of the music. The same can be said of the leader, Rumback, whose airy demarcations on the cymbals and gentle percussive rolls whisper in the wind.
Rumback also underlines that he is a composer to be reckoned with. A composition like "Ash Wednesday" is irresistibly tuneful and "We Left Briar Park" an example of prime ballad writing.
By now, Rumback has already shown his worth as a leader and sideman, but both Threes and Tag Book prove that he is also able to tackle such a challenging format as the piano trio and come up with something fresh. Graffiti artists are known to leave a tag as a sign that they have been somewhere and marked their territory. With Threes and Tag Book, Rumback's trio has also left a distinctive musical mark.
3. Ash Wednesday
4. We Left Green Briar Park
5. In the New Year
Jim Baker - piano
John Tate - bass
Charles Rumback - drums
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