Larry Goldings/Peter Bernstein/Bill Stewart – Toy Tunes – Pirouet Records PIT3100, 47:29 ****1/2:
(Larry Goldings – Hammond organ; Peter Bernstein – guitar; Bill Stewart – drums)
Since their 1991 debut, The Intimacy Of The Blues, the Larry Goldings/Peter Bernstein/Bill Stewart group has attempted to transcend the stereotypical organ trio structures. Each member has a diverse background. Organist Goldings has played with Sarah Vaughan, Leon Russell, Ricki Lee Jones, Michael McDonald and Herbie Hancock. Guitarist Bernstein has performed with Lee Konitz, Diana Krall, Jimmy Cobb and Dr. Lonnie Smith. Drummer Bill Stewart has collaborated with Pat Metheny, Maceo Parker, Joe Lovano and John Scofield. Each member is accomplished and has the pedigree and experience to be a band leader. But the innate chemistry makes their collective sound unique.
This trio’s latest release on Pirouet Records is a welcome addition to the jazz scene.The opening track, “Fagen” (a Goldings original) is a nod to the Steely Dan co-founder in spirit if not a direct linear musical analogy. Starting with an understated, distinct pulse, Bernstein picks up on the refrain building into a lead, shaded by Stewart’s drum and cymbal. At the 1:50 mark, Goldings crafts a fluent solo that combines rhythmic nuance and atmosphere. At 3:30 Bernstein returns and finishes in a slow fade with Stewart. With a tempo uptick, Bill Stewart’s “Don’t Ever Call Me Again” kicks off with an agile drum solo, before the trio flexes soul jazz muscle. Bernstein’s individual notation is punctuated and crystalline, while Goldings’ organ runs are mellifluous with impeccable phrasing. They interact with instrumental equality, jamming in unexpected sequences. Bernstein’s lone solo composition, “Lullaby For “B” has a complicated waltz timing as the guitarist explores mood and texture with adroitness. He executes crisp notation leading into Goldings’ smooth response. Stewart’s restrained drum work is stellar. In keeping with prominent jazz tradition, the first cover is a very recognizable popular standard, “I’m In The Mood For Love”. First recorded by Frances Langford in 1935 (from the film Every Night), the trio injects some grooves that breathe new life into this vintage classic. Both Goldings and Bernstein percolate and Stewart finds room for an unexpected solo.
In a significant change of pace, Carla Bley’s “And Now The Queen” (first recorded in 1965) is a free-form, mysterious jam that relies on abstract instrumentation by Goldings. It is eclectic and adds to the overall complex tapestry of Toy Tunes. A centerpiece of this album is the multi-faceted gentle swing arrangement of the title track. All of Wayne Shorter’s rhythmic finesse and compositional flexibility is manifested by Goldings’ jazzy organ runs that are preceded by a spirited guitar solo. It is hypnotic and moving. A second Stewart original “Calm” initiates with a spacey organ riff. Bernstein’s dream-like guitar folds neatly into this arrangement. There is a deliberate pace that remains intact throughout the song. The finale, “Maybe” (selected from the Broadway hit, Annie) exudes a finger-snapping, graceful flow that showcases Goldings and Bernstein in respective solos. The piece concludes with a reprise of the intro bars.
Toy Tunes is great jazz. There is accessibility, improvisation and a wide array of musical expression.
Don’t Ever Call Me Again
Lullaby For B
I’m In The Mood For Love
And Now The Queen
More information and music samples at the Pirouet Records Website: