Charles Brown’s Cool Christmas Blues
(Craft Recordings)

For those who prefer to have Christmas cheer with a bluesy and R&B backdrop, this recording first released in 1994 is quintessential. Just in time for the 2020 holidays, the album has be re-released on vinyl for audiophiles. Pianist/vocalist Charles Brown first recorded his soulful and timeless masterpiece “Merry Christmas Baby” in 1946. It was a hit then and continues to be in the 21st century.

Originals such as “Santa’s Blues,” “Stay With Me,” “To Someone That I Love” and “Christmas in Heaven” provide soulful variety. For additional flavor Brown, Clifford Solomon on tenor saxophone, Dannon Caron on guitar, Ruth Davis on acoustic bass and Gaylord Birch on drums inject soul/blues grooves “Blue Holiday” and “Bringing in a Brand New Year.” Further band support comes from the legendary Johnny Otis playing vibes on Brown’s “Christmas Comes But Once A Year” and saxophonist Bobby Forte on the same song, along with “Santa Blues” and “Bringing in a Brand New Year.”

Brown and quartet further balance things out with traditional Christmas pieces “Silent Night” and “A Song For Christmas.” Overall the bandleader’s singing and playing, and his band’s contributions put a super appealing blue spin on Holiday music that will definitely delight blues and classic R&B listeners.

by Chris J. Walker


A Charlie Brown Christmas
(Craft Recordings)

An easy definition of classic is something unanimously recognized by everyone. Pianist Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas, loved by both jazz and non-jazz listeners is the gold standard and resounds in many homes getting into the Holiday spirit every year.

For 2020 the landmark recording, first re-mastered in 1988 has been re-released on vinyl. The 3-D cover alone makes it a must-have and makes a great poster/wall art for those into that kind of thing. Of course, the music recorded and released in 1965 is everlasting and probably will be popular for another 55 years.

Most notable, is how well the music written to capture the essence of cartoonist Charles Schultz’s extremely popular Charlie Brown and cast of supporting characters tracks. Alternately, the hits “O Tannenbaum,” “Linus And Lucy.” “Christmas Time is Here” and “Skating” are enough for some listeners, and could be the playlist. However, that misses the essence and true creativity of Guaraldi, bassist Fred Marshall and drummer Jerry Granelli.

For “Greensleeves” the last selection on the recording, Monty Budwig on bass and Colin Bailey on drummer are the backing musicians. The vibe is slightly different, but definitely doesn’t distract from the overall feel of the project.

by Chris J. Walker


Celebrate Me Home: The Holiday Sessions
(Mack Avenue)

Well-known bassist, producer and arranger Brian Bromberg has recorded a myriad of projects in the categories of mainstream, fusion, crossover and contemporary/smooth jazz during his career. For Xmas he chose the latter format with touches of big band, Latin jazz and pop mixed in.

In big band settings Bromberg delves into “Let it Snow” with vocalists Maysa and Chris Walker, and “Deck The Halls/God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” featuring guitar-like electric bass solos, both backed by a very capable sextet. For a touch of comic relief the bassist scales down to a quintet for “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch” featuring himself, and Andrew Neu on tenor and baritone saxes. And further reducing to a quartet is the bandleaders “The Holidays Without You” that showcases him grooving strongly with Tom Zink-keyboards, Joel Taylor-drums and Alex Acuna-percussion.

From a more traditional slant “The Christmas Song” features guitarist Ray Fuller and light string section accompliament. While “Jingle Bells/Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel/St. Thomas” featuring Kareem Thompson on steel pan percussion and “The Most Wonderful Time of The Year” are Latin flavored. Rounding out the holiday celebration are renditions of popish “Celebrate Me Home” sung by Walker and “Felix Navidad” garnished by Najee playing flute.

by Chris J. Walker


(Gulf Coast Records)

Christmas records normally focus on being with family or that special person in your life. A Gulf Coast Christmas, which spotlights its interesting and sundry artists on the Nederland, Texas-based label seems more appropriate for hanging with your blues loving friends and drinking brews. This collection is rocking and devoted to fun loving blues aficionados.

Mike Zito, guitarist, singer and label President bookends the record with “All I Got For Christmas is The Blues” and “Run Rudolph Run.” The other 14 label mates are limited to only one song and wail away in grand style.

Albert Castiglia, Billy Price and Kat Riggins perform riveting ballads “Somebody Stole My Christmas,” “Christmas Comes But Once a Year” and “It Ain’t Christmas.”

Getting lowdown and raunchy, Jimmy Carpenter serves up Memphis styled blues and horns for “Back Door Santa,” along with Mark May/Miss Molly on “The Bluest Christmas.”

From a more traditional standpoint Lisa and Kid Anderson in Graceland, Tennessee join John Blues Boyd for “Merry Christmas Baby.” Singer/guitarist Diana Rein also emotes strong feelings on “Ring The Bells.” And strongly calling for love is Sayer And Joyce’s “Please Come Home For Christmas.” On the soulful/jazz side of blues is Thomas Atlas’ “Christmas is Cancelled.”

by Chris J. Walker

Miles Davis Quintet
Live In 1967

The second classic Miles Davis Quintet, the group with tenor-saxophonist Wayne Shorter, pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter, and drummer Tony Williams, recorded 5 1/2 studio albums during 1965-68: ESP, Miles Smiles, Sorcerer, Nefertiti, Miles In The Sky, and half of Filles De Kilimanjaro. However during the past couple of decades, more and more live performances from that era have been getting released on CD, giving a fuller picture of the group.

Live In 1967 brings back an Apr. 7, 1967 concert from the Berkeley campus that was performed after Miles Smiles and before Sorcerer. The recording quality is very listenable if not quite up to the level of studio recordings. While Davis’ studio albums for Columbia with this group focused on originals, his concerts mixed together recent material with modernized versions of some of his earlier standards, much of it played as a nonstop medley.

Raging versions of Jimmy Heath’s “Gingerbread Boy” and Wayne Shorter’s “Dolores” sandwich a relatively melodic rendition of “Stella By Starlight.” “’Round Midnight” begins as a trumpet ballad but becomes quite heated during Shorter’s solo when the rhythm section goes into double and even triple time. The set concludes with frequently explosive versions of “So What” and “Walkin’” that are taken at a rapid pace (Ron Carter’s endurance is admirable) with Tony Williams really driving the group. There is no shortage of energy displayed during these fiery performances, which serve as a reminder that Davis continued playing some of his standards into 1969.

While the liner notes consist of a fascinating interview with Miles Davis in 1968, unfortunately it says nothing about this performance. Despite that, fans of the influential band are advised to pick up Live In 1967 which is available from



Randy Brecker/Eric Marienthal
Double Dealin’

Trumpeter Randy Brecker and altoist Eric Marienthal make for a logical team since they are both flexible virtuosos who enjoy playing funky jazz. Surprisingly they have rarely recorded together through the years (at least in jazz settings); just one song on Dave Weckl’s 1992 album Heads Up, and three albums as members of the GRP All-Star Big Band.

Double Dealin’ really has a third co-leader, producer George Whitty, who is heard on keyboards, bass, drums and percussion programming in addition to supplying many of the originals. Other than two appearances by bassist John Patitucci and three from drummer Dave Weckl, Whitty supplies all of the instruments behind Brecker and Marienthal. While this is mostly groove music, the music is never simplistic or overpowering, the chord changes are often challenging, and the co-leaders both sound inspired and take consistently rewarding solos.

Among the highlights are the soulful ballad “Mind The Fire,” inventive horn solos on “Sambop,” the catchy “You Ta (To Give It),” and the passionate tradeoffs during the last part of “True North.” The enthusiasm that Brecker and Marienthal display throughout

the set is infectious and those who enjoy the funkier side of jazz will certainly want to pick this one up. Double Dealin’ is available from




Uptown Jazz Tentet
What’s Next
(Irabbagast Records)

Uptown Jazz Tentet is a ten-piece group co-led by trumpeter Brandon Lee, trombonist Willie Applewhite, and trombone-bass trombonist James Burton III. that, due to the fine arrangements, sounds like a 15-piece big band. Essentially a modern straight ahead small big band, Uptown Jazz Tentet had previously recorded its debut, There It Is.

All ten members of the group (which also includes trumpeter Tatum Greenblatt, Andrew Gutauskas on alto and soprano, tenor-saxophonist Jon Irabagon, baritonist Carl Maraghi, pianist Adam Birnbaum, bassist Clovis Nicolas, and drummer Aaron Kimmel) have opportunities to solo along the way and the band’s ensembles are clean and spirited.

The set includes such pieces are “Uptown Bass Hit” (inspired by the Ray Brown feature “One Bass Hit”), “What’s Next” which sounds like it could have been written by Wayne Shorter piece but is actually inspired by a couple of Joe Henderson originals, Milt Jackson’s blues “SKJ,” the ballad waltz “Change,” and “Bramblin’” which has some free moments particularly from trumpeter Lee. The intense “Pursue,” a tribute to pianist Junior Mance (“Mance’s Dance”), a baritone feature on “Infant Eyes,” the trumpet battle by Greenblatt and Lee on a surprisingly heated “In A Sentimental Mood,” and Kenny Barron’s “Voyage” (which has some fluent trombone by Burton) concludes the fine outing.

What’s Next is easily recommended and available from




Thelonious Monk
Palo Alto

38 years after his death, the release of a new Thelonious Monk recording is far from a common occurrence. The music on Palo Alto came about when an enterprising high schooler named Danny Scher had the outlandish idea of booking Monk and his quartet at his school. The pianist-composer was beginning to struggle a bit at the time, suffering from erratic health and having troubles at his label (Columbia) that resulted in only one more album being recorded before he was dropped. The money earned from this one-time high school concert (which was fortunately recorded and saved all of these years by the school’s custodian) helped his situation.

The full story of the unusual gig is definitively told in the liner notes of Robin D.G. Kelley and Danny Scher (who would later work as a concert promoter for Bill Graham for 24 years). As always, the real story is in the music.

Thelonious Monk is joined by his long-time tenor-saxophonist Charlie Rouse (on what would be his last recording with the pianist in a quartet format), bassist Larry Gales, and drummer Ben Riley. The set is surprising in that it starts with the ballad “Ruby, My Dear” which is taken a little faster than usual. A lengthy version of “Well You Needn’t”

gives each of the musicians an opportunity to be featured including Gales who takes a bowed solo. Monk’s unique brand of stride piano is showcased on “Don’t Blame Me.” The quartet is heard in prime form during “Blue Monk” and an uptempo and fiery rendition of “Epistrophy.” After Monk plays for a minute or so on “I Love You Sweetheart Of All My Dreams,” the 45-minute set is over since the quartet had to rush back to San Francisco to perform that night at the Jazz Workshop.

While nothing all that startling takes place, it is a joy to listen to these previously unknown performances and to hear Thelonious Monk getting such an enthusiastic reception. It must have made him a bit happy. Palo Alto is easily recommended and available from and




Dave Brubeck
Time Outtakes
(Brubeck Editions)

Time Out, which includes the original hit version of “Take Five,” “Blue Rondo A La Turk” and five other selections, is one of the biggest selling and most beloved jazz albums of all time. Quite by accident in recent times, other alternate versions of many of the songs from the same sessions were discovered. Now, in time for Dave Brubeck’s centennial, Time Outtakes has been released.

While two of the numbers on Time Out (“Pick Up Sticks” and “Everybody’s Jumpin’”) were only performed once and are not included in this set, the other five selections were played several times and now there are “new” versions to enjoy. This rendition of “Blue Rondo A La Turk” is a bit more exotic than the famous one, with more references to Turkish music while the group still swings the blues. The alternates of “Strange Meadowlark” and “Cathy’s Waltz” are the equals of the familiar versions and filled with fresh and inventive moments while often being pretty. It is also enjoyable hearing the quartet playing “Three To Get Ready” and “I’m In A Dancing Mood” with new solos.

As for “Take Five,” this rendition does not compare to the classic recording, being a bit faster and more of a feature for Joe Morello’s drums. Paul Desmond does not sound comfortable yet with the 5/4 time. As bonuses, “Watusi Drums” (another showcase for Morello) and 4 ½ minutes of excerpts from the group’s rehearsals (which is really filler) is included on the 43-minute CD.

While perhaps not quite essential, Time Outtakes is an important addition to Dave Brubeck’s large discography and is particularly recommended to those who have memorized all of Time Out. It is available from




Ryan Pate
Calamities Of Silence

Guitarist-keyboardist Ryan Pate has recorded four originals on his recent CD Calamities Of Silence that look towards the future with uncertainty. The titles of each part of the suite (“Calamities Of Silence,” “Between Indifferent Skies,” “Mirrors Of Disquiet,” and “Love In Animosity”) hint at the ambiguity in the music which is

comprised of colorful and thoughtful soundscapes.

Pate is joined by Aaron Kruziki on bass clarinet (which is prominent on the opening number), flute, alto and accordion and, on one number apiece, drummer Devin Gray and pianist Omree Gal-Oz. The emphasis is on the colors of the ensembles with plenty of group improvising taking place. The interplay between alto, guitar and drums on the lengthy “Between Indifferent Skies” is a highlight while “Mirrors Of Disquiet” puts the focus completely on Pate’s lyrical guitar.

In ways this music, which is dedicated to some of Ryan Pate’s favorite writers, is a representation of the unease and unrest that has been felt this year. However it is not overly dissonant and actually has a pleasing effect, one that is well worth experiencing. Calamities Of Silence is available from




Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers
Live At The Café Bohemia, November 1955

Drummer Art Blakey and pianist Horace Silver first recorded together on several Silver trio sets in 1952-53, with altoist Lou Donaldson in 1952, on a Miles Davis quartet session, and for their classic A Night At Birdland quintet date of 1954 which also featured Donaldson, trumpeter Clifford Brown and bassist Curly Russell. Later in 1954 Blakey and Silver decided to form the Jazz Messengers which was originally a co-op group so they could develop their own repertoire and style rather than playing jam session-type music.

The original Jazz Messengers, with trumpeter Kenny Dorham, tenor-saxophonist Hank Mobley, and bassist Doug Watkins, made their debut recording under Silver’s name on Nov. 13, 1954.While Silver would stay in the group until 1956 (when Donald Byrd was on trumpet for a few selections featuring singer Rita Reys), the only other Jazz Messengers recording before he departed and Blakey became its sole leader took place live at the New York’s Café Bohemia on Nov. 23, 1955. The bulk of the music was originally released as two Blue Note Lps and years later with a few extra cuts (“Just One Of Those Things,” “Gone With The Wind,” and “Hank’s Symphony”) as a pair of CDs. However there was also a Japanese Lp titled At The Café Bohemia Vol. 3 consisting of those three additional numbers plus three performances that were never released in the United States: a rare Doug Watkins bass feature on “What’s New,” the rapid “Deciphering The Message,” and “Lazy Bird.”

This two-CD set from the British Acrobat label (and available from has all 16 selections from the Cafe Bohemia sets programmed mostly in chronological order so one can hear the full night of music. Dorham and Mobley make for a very compatible team, Blakey drive the soloists and ensembles, and Silver often takes honors with his distinctive bluesy and sometimes quote-filled solos. In addition to the rarer material, highlights include “Like Someone In Love,” “Minor’s Holiday,” “Avila And Tequila,” and “Prince Albert” (Dorham’s line on “All The Things You Are”). In addition, three of the four selections from the earlier Jazz Messengers studio date (including the uptempo “Room 608” and the original version of Silver’s “Doodlin’”) are included as bonus cuts.

The hard bop music might be 65 years old but it still sounds quite timeless. And it is nice to finally be able to enjoy the whole thing in one package.




Larry Ochs-Aram Shelton Quartet
Continental Drift
(Clean Feed)

Two of the top improvising musicians based in the San Francisco Bay area, Larry Ochs (a longtime member of Rova heard here on tenor and sopranino saxophones) and altoist Aram Shelton, team up for a riveting and adventurous but often varied set of music. They are joined by drummer Kjell Nordeson and either Mark Dresser or Scott Walton on bass.

The opener, “Another Night,” starts out mild and quiet before getting a bit heated by its conclusion, but it is basically a melancholy piece that sets a mood. “Slat” has some screaming interplay by the saxophonists, “Switch” is a relatively swinging free bop performance, and “Continental Drift” features sound explorations with Walton’s bowed bass being prominent.

Of the other pieces, “Anita” is a somewhat melodic ballad that is even pretty in spots, a contrast to the explosive “Strand” during which the two saxophonists seem to echo each other’s thoughts. A more relaxed but still adventurous “Test Shots” and the slowly developing “The Others Dream” (which lasts over 19 minutes) conclude the intriguing outing.

Continental Drift contains plenty of stimulating music that is easily recommended to those with open ears. It is available from




3 More Sounds
Live At The Gardenia Club
(Skipper Productions)

Gene Harris (1933-2000) was a bluesy and soulful pianist whose playing was influenced a bit by Oscar Peterson. While he had a viable solo career in the 1980s and ‘90s, he came to his initial fame as the leader of the Three Sounds during 1956-72. His trio with bassist Andy Simpkins and drummer Bill Dowdy was heard at its best on its many Blue Note recordings, some of which have yet to be reissued since the 1960s.

Live At The Gardenia Club has pianist Robert Turner, bassist Henry Franklin, and drummer Carl Burnett paying tribute to the Three Sounds. Turner is a natural to fill Harris’ shoes since he is able to play in a similar style, putting plenty of feeling into each note on the slower pieces and giving each number a bluesy groove. Franklin (who takes some fine solos) and Burnett also fit well into their roles while Louis Van Taylor guests on flute during “Sombrero Sam” and a lengthy “Eleanor Rigby.”

Other than the closing “Milestones,” the music is taken at slower tempos; the program could have used more cookers. A highpoint is Turner’s tour-de-force on “Misty” while some of the other pieces include “On A Clear Day,” “Night Mist Blues” and “On Green Dolphin Street.”

This is excellent vintage groove music that will certainly satisfy fans of Gene Harris’ Three Sounds, a group deserving of being rediscovered. It is available from




Craig Brenner
(Craig Brenner Music)

Craig Brenner clearly enjoys crossing between the boundaries of jazz and blues. A fine pianist who on “Looking For A Job” also plays organ and sings, Brenner varies the personnel and instrumentation throughout the eight selections that comprise Passages.

The opening “Life Is Precious” surprisingly starts with a drum solo by Dan Hostetler before becoming a medium-tempo piece with a strong melody. “Tut’s Boogie Woogie” (was it written as a tribute to the 1940s pianist Tut Soper?) is a boogie blues that, in addition to the piano, features fine solos from baritonist Joe Donnelly and guitarist Gordon Bonham. Completing changing the mood, “No One Should Die Alone” is a gospellish piece with expressive singing from Merrill Garbus.

“Spring Is Near” is a swinging and joyful original with another vocal from Garbus and a prominent role for trumpeter Kyle Quass. “Some Sexy Blues For Ya Right Here, Y’all” brings back Donnelly and Bonham while living up to its title. The eccentric “Paradiddle Boogie Woogie” is mostly a showcase for piano and drums. The continually surprising program concludes with the somber “For My Brother” which is played by Dena El Safar on violin and viola, and an octet performing the concise “Looking For A Job.”

This set will keep one guessing. Its quality is consistently high and the results are enjoyable. It is available from




Mark Hynes Trio
(Cellar Live)

Dennis Irwin (1951-2008) was a well-respected and versatile bassist who worked with Ted Curson, Betty Carter, Mose Allison, Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Chet Baker, Stan Getz, Johnny Griffin, and Horace Silver among others. Shortly before he was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2007, passing away within a year, he recorded half an album with tenor-saxophonist Mark Hynes and drummer Darrell Green. It was originally planned that the second half of the project would add a pianist to make the group a quartet but, when Irwin was knocked out of action, the project remained unreleased and unfinished.

Recently Mark Hynes decided to put out the music, adding one additional number. Hynes has a strong and passionate sound on the tenor in the tradition of Ben Webster, Lew Tabackin and Bennie Wallace. Each of the songs on this CD is a tribute. The one original, “B’s Monk,” is a medium-tempo blues that sounds as if it could be a Thelonious Monk song. The uptempo “Cheese Cake” and “Comes Love” are for Dexter Gordon and Billie Holiday while a thoughtful ballad version of “Isfahan” and “Let’s Cool One” are inspired by versions recorded by Johnny Griffin, one of Hynes’ main inspirations. On these trio tracks, Hynes shares solo space with Irwin (both are in excellent form) with Green being stimulating in support. To wrap up the CD, Hynes recorded “Goodbye” with bassist Yasushi Nakamura and drummer Jerome Jennings as a heartfelt tribute to the bassist.

Although a little brief, the quality is high on this project and the music was certainly worth releasing. It serves as a worthy tribute to Dennis Irwin, and a fine showcase for Mark Hynes’ swinging yet adventurous tenor. It is available from




Guillaume Nouaux
The Stride Piano Kings

The previous release by French drummer Guillaume Mouaux was called The Clarinet Kings. It teamed him with 11 different classic jazz and swing clarinetists in trios with a few different pianists. The Stride Piano Kings builds on the idea, featuring Nouaux with seven great stride pianists of today (all Europeans and some not that well known in the U.S) on two songs apiece.

Despite the many talents involved, there is a strong unity and consistency to the program along with a bit of variety. Bernd Lhotzky performs an uptempo and flashy version of James P. Johnson’s “Harlem Strut” and a mostly double-time rendition of “Over The Rainbow.” Louis Mazetier (famed for being in Paris Washboard) sounds properly Dukish on “Drop Me Off In Harlem” and performs “Overnight,” a hot number a little reminiscent of “Lover.” Luca Filastro is quite impressive on “I Wish I Were Twins” (taking the verse as a ballad before cooking) and Fats Waller’s “Handful Of Keys.” Chris Hopkins digs into “Willow Weep For Me” and “When I Grow Too Old To Dream.” Rossano Sportiello is in top form during a joyful “Runnin’ Wild” and his original medium-tempo swing ballad “Why Did You Tell Me ‘I Love You’.”

Harry Kantas performs a short but sweet version of “Jitterbug Waltz” and a humorous “Tea For Two.” The latter has several drum breaks by Mouaux, each of which are followed by a purposely sped up chorus; the duo does that at least four times. In addition to playing a swinging version of “The Lady Is A Tramp,” Alain Barrabes creates an unusual stride version of “Cherokee” and “Salt Peanuts.”

Guillaume Mouaux takes plenty of short drum solos throughout the program and is spotlighted on a brief and unaccompanied “Mop Mop (For Sid Catlett).” He must have really had fun having the opportunity to play with such talented pianists, and listeners will share the enjoyment. This excellent set is available from




George Benson
Weekend In London

George Benson is one of the great jazz guitarists, at least when he wants to be. A major player since the mid-1960s, he has recorded plenty of gems including with Jack McDuff, as a leader for the Columbia and CTI labels, and occasionally in the decades since including fine albums with McCoy Tyner and the Count Basie Orchestra. He of course has had great commercial success as a singer starting in the 1970s and is one of the few jazz-inspired performers today (along with Diana Krall and Harry Connick, Jr.) who is capable of filling up a stadium.

The music on Weekend In London is occasionally jazzy but this is not a jazz set. Recorded at Ronnie Scott’s in 2019, the program mostly features Benson singing over grooves with his guitar used mostly for seasoning and to play fills between his vocals. His backup group (Randy Waldman and Thom Hall on keyboards, bassist Stanley Banks, drummer Khari Parker, percussionist Lillian De Los Reyes, guitarist Michael O’Neill, and three background singers) is supportive and keeps the music grooving.

The first four songs, (which include “Give Me The Night,” “Turn Your Love Around,” and “In Your Eyes”) is essentially r&b, well-sung and played but with no surprises. “I Hear You Knocking” is of a little more interest since it is a New Orleans r&b piece by Dave Bartholomew. Some of the other tunes are by Eugene McDaniels (“Feel Like Makin’ Love”), James Taylor, and Donny Hathaway with “Moody’s Mood For Love” being the token jazz standard. Things loosen up a bit on the last few numbers with Benson taking fine guitar solos during “The Ghetto,” Jose Feliciano’s “Affirmation,” and “Cruise Control” while giving the backup band an opportunity to stretch out a little. But Weekend In London (available from is really for those who enjoy hearing George Benson singing r&b ballads and playing groove music. For his more swinging and jazz-oriented playing, one has to look elsewhere.




Emanuel Ruffler
Three Words To Thrive By

Pianist Emanuel Ruffler, bassist Rahsaan Carter, and drummer Timothy Angular have worked together frequently since 2017. Their familiarity with each other’s playing is obvious throughout Three Words To Thrive By, an adventurous yet fairly accessible trio set.

The eight compositions include three improvisations and several multi-part compositions. It is a testament to the trio’s close communication that it is sometimes difficult to tell which is which. The free improvs are thoughtful and almost sound planned in advance with “Thunder” (which is more like a lightning storm) being a highpoint. The compositions such as the somber “Elephant” and “Polo” (which is a bit reminiscent of Ornette Coleman’s freebop) could pass for free improvisations. A bonus is “Jazz Dakar” which has some wordless singing by Valarie Troutt that is quite haunting and fits right in with the trio.

Three Words To Thrive By grows in interest with each listen and is filled with near-telepathic reactions between the musicians. It is available from and