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Thrasher Dream Trio – Live in Studio [TrackList follows] – Whaling City Sound

Thrasher Dream Trio – Live in Studio [TrackList follows] – Whaling City Sound wcs076, 77:31 (9/11/15) [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

(Kenny Barron – acoustic piano; Ron Carter – acoustic bass; Gerry Gibbs – drums, co-mixing engineer, producer; Roy Hargrove – trumpet, Flugelhorn – (tracks 5, 7, 11, 16); Cassandra Wilson – vocals (tracks 3, 7, 13))

Drummer Gerry Gibbs put together a dream project in late 2012 when he recruited two of his musical idols—pianist Kenny Barron and bassist Ron Carter—and released a 2013 album. He titled his new group the Thrasher Dream Trio. In 2014, the threesome got back together and delivered a sophomore CD. That self-titled, first record had originals, some jazz standards and pop tunes recast as jazz tracks. The second undertaking, We’re Back (Whaling City Sound, 2014), upped the covers quotient with material made famous by Burt Bacharach, Marvin Gaye, Miles Davis, and the Average White Band, and had musical guests comprising vibraphonist Warren Wolf, saxophonist Steve Wilson and organist Larry Goldings. On the Thrasher Dream Trio’s latest outing, the 77-minute Live in Studio, Gibbs, Barron and Carter follow a similar path. This time they’ve added trumpeter Roy Hargrove (who also plays Flugelhorn) to four tunes and vocalist Cassandra Wilson is on three others. The trio dispenses with any originals for a 16-track program which features soundtrack work by Alex North, Michel Legrand, Bacharach, Henry Mancini and more; some choices from the Great American Songbook; and some other nice selections.

While everything stands out, the four cuts with Hargrove are crowd pleasers (the audience was handpicked and they really let the band know when they’re enjoying the music). Hargrove is first heard on a quietly swinging version of the popular Lerner and Lane Broadway and movie hit, “On a Clear Day,” which has a breezy and good-natured disposition. He brings a delicate edge to the beautiful Legrand ballad, “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?,” which begins with a trumpet/piano duet where Hargrove’s notes gorgeously hang in the air, and then the rhythm section commences and the melodic lines drift like gossamer in a fine wind. At the opposite spectrum is a stunning and fast-paced translation of the Mancini/Johnny Mercer standard, “Charade,” from Alfred Hitchcock’s film of the same name.

Wilson is equally impressive. Regrettably, she and Hargrove share only one tune, a sublime reading of Bacharach’s “Alfie,” initially found in Michael Caine’s 1966 motion picture, and which subsequently has turned into a well-known and much-performed classic. “Alfie” is a real highlight. Wilson is heard first, and then Hargrove takes the spotlight in the middle portion, and Wilson finishes. Wilson also is also first-rate on another definitive Bacharach piece, “The Look of Love,” which appeared in the 1967 James Bond spoof Casino Royale. Wilson’s third contribution is an entertaining interpretation of “Watch What Happens,” yet another tune associated with the big screen, 1964’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (music by Legrand, English lyrics by Norman Gimbel). Fans of Legrand’s compositions will also find a sprightly trio instrumental performance of “Watch What Happens,” where Barron steps lively and Carter and Gibbs furnish a delectable rhythmic discussion. Gibbs also supplies some notable soloing.

The trio does wonders with other covers by Bacharach, Legrand and more. One of the few selections not expressly created for a film is Vince Guaraldi’s “Cast Your Fate to the Wind,” although it has since been used in Good Morning Vietnam (1987) and The In Crowd (1988). The Guaraldi track moves along at a brisk tempo, peppered by inflective rhythms and Barron’s hopping keyboard lines. Another upfront and optimistic number is Bacharach’s “Wives and Lovers.” In keeping with this record’s cinematic connections, this was composed as a tie-in with the 1963 movie, although it was not on the soundtrack (a promotional practice at the time). North’s “Spartacus Love Theme” also gets an earnest and enthusiastic adaptation. The studio sound throughout Live in Studio is also prominent. Mixing live instruments is never an easy task. Engineer Mike Marciano and his team did a terrific job at Brooklyn’s Systems Two Recording facility.

TrackList: Wives and Lovers; The Summer Knows; The Look of Love; Spartacus Love Theme; On a Clear Day; The Surrey with the Fringe on Top; Alfie; Watch What Happens (instrumental); Theme from A Man and a Woman; Cast Your Fate to the Wind; What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?; More (from Mondo Cane); Watch What Happens (vocal); Music to Watch Girls By; Girl Talk; Charade.

—Doug Simpson

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