Art Fristoe Trio – Double Down – Merry Lane Records

Art Fristoe Trio – Double Down – Merry Lane Records 700261454191 94:36 [2CDs] ***:

A talent that should have broader recognition

( Art Fristoe – piano; Tim Ruiz – bass; Daleton Lee – drums – Disc 1 tracks 4,5; Disc 2 tracks 2,9 ); Richard Cholakian – drums all others; Ilya Janos – percussion – Disc 1 track4; Disc 2 – tracks 2,9)

Houston Texas may not immediately come to mind as hot bed a jazz and jazz players. However it has had a number of well-known jazz musicians who have gotten their starts in the city including Joe Sample along with The Crusaders, Hubert Laws and Jason Moran. Pianist Art Fristoe has developed a solid reputation in the area and appears on a regular basis at The Fedora Lounge.  If his trio release Double Down is a good representation of his playing, then a broader recognition of his talent is in order.

The music chosen for this session is an eclectic mixture of rock, popular, and jazz standards mingled with a number of Fristoe originals. These prove to be clever choices as they provide the trio with the kind of substance that plays to their strengths. Opening with a Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” which Fristoe tackles with abandon but staying within the tune’s compositional structure. The first jazz theme is the Juan Tizol/Duke Ellington classic “Caravan” with added percussion provided by Ilya Janos. The Cuban lilt to the number is delightfully appropriate with Fristoe’s improvisation multifaceted and inventive.

The first CD closes with two Lennon/McCartney favourites “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” and “Blackbird”. On the former, Fristoe shows he is equally familiar with the electric piano as with an acoustic model. But his version is multifaceted and  filled with abstractions. On the latter, Fristoe returns to acoustic piano form but adds a vocal which could have been eliminated without any loss.

The second CD features a preponderance of Art Fristoe original compositions. Most of them however, are unremarkable in theme, structure and content. There are two which rise above the others and they are “Better Lately “ and “Lambastin’”. The first one is a ballad solo piano effort wherein Fristoe shows a firm touch on a romantic theme. The second has a boppish take on a burley structure with Fristoe firmly in command.

Antonio (Tom) Carlos Jobim wrote “Ela é Carioca”  is a delightful but one of his lesser known sambas  on which Fristoe and the trio add percussionist Ilya Janos to the interpretation. This provides a certain harmonic urbanity to the number. This same configuration close out the disc with the Kurt Weill/Ogden Nash standard “Speak Low”. Their collaboration demonstrates a direct and bold sense of the composition, with Fristoe acting as a trusted interlocutor.

Art Fristoe and the trio have a regular Tuesday night gig at The Fedora Lounge in Houston Texas. This is probably well known to the locals, but if you are new in town, check him out.

Disc 1:
Smells Like Teen Spirit
Benny’s Tune
Alone Together
Wrong Together
Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

Disc 2:
Forgetting I Know You
Ela é Carioca
Seventh-Floor Walkup
Better Lately
Beautiful Love
Très Palabras
Speak Low

—Pierre Giroux

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