Ben Allison’s drummer-less trio – honors Jim Hall & Jimmy Giuffre…
Ben Allison – Quiet Revolution – Newvelle Records NV005LP – audiophile vinyl ****1/2:
(Ben Allison – bass; Ted Nash – tenor sax & clarinet; Steve Cardenas – steel-string guitar)
The concept of a drummer-less trio is not a new one for jazz. The concept goes back to at least trios with Oscar Peterson, and Nat King Cole. Having the trio not include a pianist is only a bit harder to find, but the trio of Lucky Thompson, Skeeter Best, and Oscar Pettiford come to mind. Among the most noted for utilizing this concept were guitarist Jim Hall and multi-reedist Jimmy Giuffre.
Bassist Ben Allison is the latest to record with saxophone and guitar, and in a gorgeous-sounding audiophile vinyl just issued by Newvelle Records for their subscription series, Allison is paired with Ted Nash and Steve Cardenas to honor Giuffre and Hall. In addition to the honorees, Allison and Nash each contribute a composition as well as the inclusion of the “Love Theme from Spartacus.”
What is immediately apparent in listening to this marvelous sounding LP is the joy and creative interplay between the trio. Watching a YouTube video of Ben, Ted, and Steve recording Giuffre’s well known “Pony Express” will bring a smile on, as in separate rooms in the East Side Sound studio in NYC they bring to life the infectious Giuffre melody. Allison is hunched over his bass, reacting to Nash’s tenor while Cardenas fills in with guitar “commentary.” Masters at work interpreting a classic jazz composition. But the audio is much better on this vinyl disc.
All ten tracks swing with energy, and the passion presented is contagious. “All Across the City” is moody and atmospheric. It could be used for a film noir movie soundtrack. On “Move It” the groove between sax and bass is locked in. It has a gypsy jazz vibe as Nash is like a firefly stirring up light. Ben Allison’s bass takes up the bottom end where the drums would be.
“Sleeping Tiger” and “The Train and the River” both feature Ted Nash on clarinet and they stand out as my likely favorites as Nash serves as a snake charmer both entrancing and hypnotic. It’s like a game of tag – here it is, now come and get it – and both Allison and Cardenas are up to the task. “Lookin’ Up” is a nice feature for Steve Cardenas while the “Love Theme from Spartacus” is sublime with all three artists floating in a various times to state the theme.
The acoustics on this album are exemplary as they both meet and often exceed any of the other Newvelle issues to date. The warmth of both guitar and bass strings are felt with an intensity only matched by the sweetness of the higher register of the clarinet. Allison calls this trio, The Easy Way, and if it’s this easy we can hardly wait till they tackle something even more rewarding.
Side A: All Across the City, Move It, Waltz Now, Sleeping Tiger, Pony Express
Side B: Careful, The Train and the River, Lookin’ Up, The Truth is Stranger Than
Fiction, Love Theme from Spartacus