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Ryan Burns / Geoff Cooke / Jose Martinez: Tree-O

Dan McClenaghan By

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Tree-O, a Ryan Burns-led piano trio affair, caught me by surprise. I was already familiar with Burns' work with Matt Jorgensen + 451 on the CD Hope (Origin Records, '04) and an excellent live show with that group at Dizzy's in San Diego, so I thought this effort would fall into the forward-lean/electric keyboard category. But it's an acoustic set, a genuine tip of the hat to the piano trio's past.

The opener, "Gettin' Red-y (for Red Garland)," sets the mood. Red Garland was Miles Davis' pianist of choice in his first great quintet, with John Coltrane, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones. Garland had a light touch, a sparkle that's evident here in Ryan Burns' hands. Also evident is the trio's chemistry. Burns, bassist Geoff Cooke and drummer Jose Martinez have played together for a decade, and their sympatico shows, with a much more interactive and modern approach than what's on Red Garlard's '50s trio outings.

"Ring the Bells," another Burns original, addresses the Miles Davis first great quintet vehicle "If I Were a Bell," with that familiar eight-note chime leading into a relaxed bounce of a rhythm behind a pretty melody. "Down in Denver" and "Boca De Tomatlan," both written by bassist Geoff Cooke, have darker tones than the Burns-penned tunes, with more of a modernistic, foreboding lean.

"Ibra-Hymn," a nod to Abdullah Ibrahim, closes the set with a South African rhythmic feeling and a sense of serene spirituality, wrapping up this top-notch piano trio disc with style and reverence.

Track Listing: Gettin' Red-y (for Red Garland); Ring the Bells; Down in Denver; Entomology; Boca De Tomatlan; Freedom of Commitment; Ibra-Hymn.

Personnel: Ryan Burns: piano; Geoff Cooke: bass; Jose Martinez: drums.

Title: Tree-O | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Odd Bird Records

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