On Trios Version 3.0, the third volume in a series of piano trio albums by bassist Gordon Johnson, the leader is joined by an estimable rotating cast of supporting players. The lucky part for listeners is that Johnson, the only mainstay on all ten tracks, is such an arresting, versatile, and fluid presence. Quite simply, the album is a treasure trove for those interested in the possibilities and artistry offered by phenomenal bass playing.
It helps, too, that the various trios assembled play with such ease and compliment each other well. On Irving Berlin's "The Best Thing For You, Matthew Fries glides lightly over the keyboard while drummer Phil Hey contributes light, bouncing breaks that sound like a stone skipping across the surface of a lake. "Canzone Por Nino Rota is credited to the Giacomo Aula Midwest Trio and conjures some of the same sweet nostalgia of a Rota piece. Italian-born pianist Aula lays down a crystalline circle while drummer Jay Epstein prods his fellow musicians with particularly effective and atmospheric cymbal work. Eventually, Johnson emerges with an introspective, quietly pulsing solo.
In addition to the mastery of Johnson's bass playing, another strong point of Trios Version 3.0 is that each featured trio plays with the intuitive give and take that characterize all the great groups in the genre. No matter how inventive a trio may be, the monotony of precisely ordered solos is bound to wear the listener down. Johnson and his compatriots succeed by insisting on spontaneity, and from that comes a welcome diversity.
Mountain Flight; The Best Thing For You; Nobody Else But Me; Zingaro; Samba De Flora;
Orchid; Let's Misbehave; Canzone Por Nino Rota; Jubilation; Laughin' Blues.
Gordon Johnson: bass; Giacomo Aula: piano (8); Matthew Fries: piano (2,4,6,9); Jon Weber:
piano (1,3,7); Benny Weinbeck: piano (5,10); Jay Epstein: drums (8); Steve Gadd: drums
(5,10); Phil Hey: drums (2,4,6,9); Joe Pulice: drums (1,3,7).