(Toby Koenigsberg, piano/ Tyler Abbott, bass/ Jason Palmer, drums)
To summarize this 2006 release first: This is an absolutely superb piano trio delivering a magnificent program. I’ve listened to this disc numerous times, both on my dedicated home system and in the car. One of my first impressions was how well the group was captured by the engineer. I then noticed that the HDCD indicator light was glowing on my DAC. Although there is no indication in the packaging, this CD is HDCD encoded. One needs not have HDCD decoding, but the presence of it makes the sonics of this great sounding disc even better. The dynamics, imaging and overall space then becomes extraordinarily impressive. To the extent that it even matches the high level production quality of a more straight ahead post-bop leaning album such as Dewey Redman’s “The Struggle Continues” (perhaps the first of ECM’s more aggressive jazz releases). All this accomplished in Portland, Oregon studios with mastering in Boulder, Colorado. Once again, the superior recording techniques of current day jazz shines!
Pianist Koenigsberg is a teacher, an on-air radio personality and a reviewer. He received his Masters degree in Jazz and Contemporary Media from the Eastman School of Music, where he won an award as the most outstanding graduate jazz performer in a graduating class. He is an assistant professor of jazz piano at the University of Oregon, where he is also associate director of jazz studies. Drummer Palmer grew up with Koenisberg and they’ve been playing since age 17. It certainly shows here. Palmer also teaches drum kit, along with being a graduate teaching fellow. Bassist Abbott, who received his Music Masters from the U of Oregon, is a member of various orchestras throughout the Northwest, while also being a teaching graduate fellow. Both Koenigsberg and Abbott have had a substantial amount of classical training, which is apparent from this recording.
The theme of this release reflects its title. The aim was to escape the thought process of intellectualism and let the senses take over. To improvise “out” and then “come back”. This fully succeeds, probably because the group chose to log a lot of practice time, supplemented by the type of appearances that might be shunned by other artists – to play at facilities where money is not the key element, but rather presents the opportunity to develop artistry. Actually, this corresponds nicely with Koenigsberg’s feeling that jazz is in great shape artistically, if not commercially. I guess one has to believe that the human spirit will eventually come around to resolve this contradiction. I’m very impressed with the implementation of this session. Just as marvelous is the feeling that the producers, engineers and players got together and decided on a group “sound” – that they wanted the pieces to have a specific sonic character. This was magnificently achieved.
Sprinkled throughout the program are Monk-isms, superb solos, time changes and everything so vital to modern jazz. Track one is a monster which shows off the abilities of all band members. Palmer’s drum sound here is massive – almost as though the skins were tighter or looser than normal. But probably it’s just perfect placement of microphones and the later mixing process. Their take on “My Foolish Heart” is simply elegant. Bill Evans’ “Show Type Tune” is taken as a romp fondly bringing back cherished memories of the time. There are numerous treasures contained in this disc. Koenigsberg and Abbott tend to periodically display their classical learnings in some sections. (This can never be fully repressed and makes for some beautiful light-touch keyboards and sumptuous bass). At other times the group swings and drives like crazy. I just love this one! It makes me think that it might well be a very good idea to make it a point to attend faculty concerts at the academic institutions where guys like this teach.
Tracklist: Thirteen Species / Oblivion / Stellaaaaaaaaaa! (one) / My Foolish Heart / So Sorry Please / Variant Strain / Stellaaaaaaaaaaaa! (two) / Show Type Tune / Realizing
– Birney K. Brown