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Hal Gaylor/Walter Norris/Billy Bean: The Trio

Derek Taylor By

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This disc presents the all-too-common story of a jazz group that should have recorded far more often than it did, but fell apart just as things were getting really interesting. It’s no mere afterthought that the three musicians documented here took the epithet “The Trio” to describe their collective vision. As the eight tracks on this disc illustrate each man is an integral component in the group’s palpably inventive Gestalt.

Jim Hall’s liners offer an illuminating description of how the trio found their direction through diligent and mutually supportive devotion to their music. Desiring a group sound that maximized equal footing for each musician these three players took to the hills of upstate New York, rented a home to house themselves and their families, and set about woodshedding for several months in seclusion. The end result of their efforts, captured on this recording, shows that all their work was worth it. A relaxed, but streamlined swing inundates each of the pieces and is further advanced by the instrumentation of the group, which opens up a broad array of harmonic and rhythmic possibilities. Though loyally rooted in melodious interaction the three also demonstrate a subtle appreciation for the avant-garde in their improvisations. Norris worked for a short time with Ornette Coleman and the latter’s harmelodic precepts creep into the pianist’s creations on more than one occasion. Gaylor is an accomplished string architect and always manages to maintain a pliant pulse whether he’s soloing, trading taut phrases with Bean, laying down a limber background rhythm or plucking nimble pizzicato lines on overdubbed cello (as on “Che-Low”). Bean’s aptitude on his axe is often equally astounding. His febrile runs on the appropriately titled “Scramble” are as intricate as they are fleet-fingered.

The Trio’s wisdom with regards to material is as winsome as their instrumental ingenuity. Balancing a program of originally conceived tunes with several standards each musician contributes at least one composition to the mix, once again evidencing their shared spirit of community. There’s not a single clunker in the bunch and the players take maximum advantage each piece to ply their considerable musical wares. This disc is a bittersweet treasure and proves that tasteful swing and creative improvisation need not be antithetical to one another.

Track Listing: Groove Yard/ Smoke Gets In Your Eyes/ The End of a Love Affair/ Scramble/ Out Front/ Che-Low/ For Heaven

Personnel: Walter Norris- piano; Hal Gaylor- double bass, cello; Billy Bean- electric guitar.

| Record Label: Fantasy Jazz | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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