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Trio Logic: Phishbacher, Dominic J Marshall, Bob Henschen Trios

C. Michael Bailey By

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The traditional jazz piano trio (piano, double bass and drums) remains a robust and productive format for jazz performance and interpretation. Here are three examples supporting this.

Phishbacher Trio
Dreamcatcher
Jazz Sick Records
2014

Pianist and composer Walter Fischbacher with his wife, singer/composer Elisabeth Lohninger manage their Lofish Recording Studio in New York City when not pursuing each other's well- received recording careers. Fischbacher and his trio have enjoyed a productive new millennium, releasing their sixth recording, Dreamcatcher. Fischbacher eschews electronics in favor of piano trio for interpretations of ten contemporary pop classics ranging from George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (a wicked irony there) to Coldplay's "Clocks," featuring Lohninger on vocals.

Fischbacher shows no fear in selecting pop monuments from the last 40 years. U2's "With or Without You," is treated as an upbeat ballad with Fischbacher approximating The Edge's unique guitar approach. Ulf Stricker's assertive drumming propels the piece while Goran Vujic's muscular bass playing fills out the orchestral personality of the group. The three prove empathic regarding the dynamics of trio interplay. Michael Jackson's "I Can't Stop Loving You" is a breezy stroll sporting some of Fischbacher's most lyrical playing. Fischbacher's two original compositions, "Dreamcatcher" and "Mermaid's Refuge" effectively dissolve among the covers, providing a deepening of the recital. Genesis' "I Can't Dance" closes the disc with a 21st Century "The In-Croud" that is both savvy and hip.

Dominic J Marshall Trio
Spirit Speech
Origin Records
2014

The you hear the one about the English pianist, living in Amsterdam, blending a cornucopia of popular music styles under the banner of jazz. Well, that would be Dominic J Marshall, leading his trio of bassist Tobias Nijboer and drummer Jamie Peet through his sequel to 2012's Icaros (F-ire Records), Spirit Speech. Nijboer is a holdover from Icaros, providing Marshall with a rhythmic continuity present in both recordings. Marshall's composing approach is pan-rhythmic, opting for more rock and funk oriented drumming ("Tiwanaku" and "Sleepwalking") dispersed among the ballad-to-boiler tempi of "Austin Peralta" and "Bud."

Marshall successfully joins the past and present in a combination predicting the future of the acoustic jazz trio. He take a less airy, more dense and intense approach than Craig Taborn or Vijay Iyer. His melodic sense coupled with Nijboer solid sense of time and Peets solid sense of space make "N = This Very Duo" and "Enter the Void" representative of a new, progressive trio art further solidifying the place of original composition in instrumental jazz.

Bob Henschen Trio
Cravo e Canela
Self Produced
2014

Pianist Bob Henschen is a member in good standing with the Houston Jazz Mafia, a group of musicians that boasts guitarists Chris Cortez and Paul Douglas Chester , singers Tianna Hall and Jacqui Sutton and saxophonists Alisha Pattillo and Woody Witt among many others. He teams with bassist Aric Nitzberk and drummer Tim Solook for a low- impact journey through eight delicate and lesser-performed ballads on Cravo e Canela.

Stunning is Henschen's spacious take on Jack DeJohnette's plush ballad, "Lydia" as it gives way to the nuclear blues of Andrew "Tex" Allen's "Merlin." Allen also provided "Intruding Melody" a piece with cascading notes approximating falling rain as gathered in the basket provided by the delicate rhythm section which transmogrifies into a lilting Latin swing. The lengthy piece features an angular solo by Nitzberk buoyed by Solook's shimmering cymbal work. Henschen's golden touch resides in his delicate confidence, like that expressed on Billy Strayhorn's "Upper Manhattan Medical Group, where Henschen captures a steady swing that permeates the soul of the recording: light and classy and always on the beat.

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