Nathan BROWN trio: This Is The Moment – Gut String Records 028, 57:46 (6/12/17) ****:

An outstanding tribute to the late ‘50s guitar trio aesthetic  of Paul Chambers and Grant Green. 

(Nathan Brown; bass/ Felix Lemerle; guitar/ Peter Traunmueller; drums)

This trio, led by bassist Nathan Brown, demonstrates a commitment to the old values of ‘50s Modern Jazz. The Aesthetic is remarkably well-dialed in. Try the opening, Curley’s Revenge, on your friends. At least one will say “Grant Green.” Guitarist Felix Lemerle has an old-fashioned, minimally-amped sound on his warm hollow-body. He thinks his way deliberately through modest blues changes without undue bustle or striving for effect. He has a hard pick and prefers staccato attack throughout. On Bird’s Opening, Mr. Brown references the key moment in modern jazz history when Paul Chambers picked up his bow and made a case for the arco solo. Few critics have been forthcoming about how uneven this all-time great bassist sounds on such occasions. While the classical bassists know that the problem stems from lax notions of tonality, the audiences generally protest the caterwauling by instinct alone.

Brown follows Mr. P.C. without trepidation; We hear the arco first on the nifty bebop line and then in a longish dialog on Plaza d’Armas and then again for an acidulous solo on Don’t Look. It becomes clear that this bassist is trying to make a case for the bow. While his technique is clearly an advance on the Old School, I think the jury would be split. Clearly the instrument, which poses in reclined splendor on the CD back, is an awesome piece of carved wood, yet few could say that its eloquence is enhanced by application of horsehair.

The Trio show how good they are on a relaxed Just a Little Lovin’. The drummer, everywhere a model of taste and decorum, finds a ‘50s groove reminiscent of Philly Joe Jones or Albert Heath. The guitarist is infallible in his choice of notes, and the bass lays down quarter notes as fat as half-dollars. No. 1 Green Street is an eponymous bebop line–the group likes simplicity on the heads–which takes us back into familiar blues territory. The bassist employs a novelty: trading fours with himself by way of antiphony between plucked and sawed statements.

There is very little velocity on this record. Rather, it is a study in relaxed bebop inquiry. But Fourth Way pushes the tempo a bit, and Felix Lemerle nudges toward the Tal Farlow model with some thicker chording and scrabbled lines.  Without particularly asking for it, we get one more long arco solo on This is the Moment, which is not as decisive as the title, nor does it help us towards a verdict on the bow.

For those among our readership who like to view the Bebop language of 1955-1960 as a perfection of a style on par with Gothic architecture or Homeric epic, this record will satisfy deeply. Without doubt, this guitarist is among the best representatives of the hollow-body expression of that language and bass/ leader and agile Peter Traunmueller on the kit make a perfect team.  Kudos to the sound engineers, who deliver very detailed sonics. The CD is available on the Gut String Records site and comes very warmly recommended.

Curley’s Revenge
Bird’s Opening
Plaza d’Armas
Don’t Look
Cheer Up Charlie
Mille’s Delight
Just a Little Lovin’ No 1. Green Street
The Fourth Way
This is the Moment

—Fritz Balwit