Late last year, three of the most respected names in jazz joined to take on a handful of jazz standards for a new collection of songs. The group’s –John Patitucci, Vinnie Colaiuta, and Bill Cunliffe – efforts resulted in Le Coq Records’ recently released record, Trio. Released Feb. 19, the nine-song record is an enjoyable, but imperfect presentation. The most important of its positives is its featured songs, which will be discussed shortly. While the record’s featured arrangements do much to make the recording so enjoyable, the lack of information on those songs in the packaging detracts considerably from the record’s presentation. While it clearly detracts from the recording’s presentation to a point, it is not enough to make the recording a failure. The trio’s takes on the song put the finishing touch to the collection. When this is considered along with the recording’s featured songs, the two elements together make the album a wonderful whole that again is enjoyable even with its one notable fault.
John Patitucci, Vinnie Colaiuta, and Bill Cunliffe’s new jazz standards collection Trio is an enjoyable offering from the group that any jazz lover will enjoy. That is due in no small part to the recording’s featured songs. The nine songs that make up the body of Trio are all standards. The songs take listeners seemingly all the way back to 1917 through the original Dixieland Jazz Band’s song, ‘One-Step,’ — having no notes in the packaging to tell for certain, this has to be assumed. It will be discussed a little later — up through the 1940s with David Raskin’s ‘Laura’ and the Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer 1943 song, ‘My Shining Hour’ and then to 1950 with George Shearing’s ‘Conception’ before reaching into 1956 and ‘Just in Time’ by the trio of Jule Styne, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green. As the record moves into the 1960s, listeners are treated to a performance of Miles Davis’ ‘Seven Steps to Heaven.’ The musical ride through the history of jazz ends in the 1970s and Wayne Shorter’s 1974 song, ‘Ana Maria.’ Simply put, what the album offers in the way of this record’s is a collection of songs that lifts from jazz standards from throughout the 20th century. What’s more, the featured songs lift from a variety of jazz sub-genres. ‘Conception’ for instance offers listeners something of a bebop style work. The inclusion of ‘Good Morning Heartache’ gives listeners a touch of blues-based jazz, on a different note. One could even argue that the group’s take on ‘Just in Time’ is a post bop style composition, along with its source material. It’s one more way in which the featured songs show their importance. When the varied styles featured among the songs are considered along with the range of eras from which the songs are rooted, that in itself will make the album appealing for the history that they teach overall.
There is no doubt that the songs featured in Trio play their own important part to the record’s presentation. Now, for all that the songs do for the record’s appeal, they lead in to a discussion on the record’s lone negative. That negative is the lack of information in the album’s packaging about the songs’ original composers. This lack of information can and does lead to confusion over who wrote which songs. This critic will admit that in researching the songs – due to that lack of information – the connection of ‘The One Step’ to the original Dixieland Jazz Band was assumed. It is very possible that this song in question was someone else’s especially in comparing the rendition here to that of the original Dixieland Jazz Band. So overall, that lack of information is detrimental in that as demonstrated, it can and does lead to confusion about the songs’ roots among some audiences. Directly connected to that is that the original composers are not getting credit where due. This can become very problematic for Le Coq Records, since technically those credits are supposed to be provided since these are someone else’s works. Le Coq Records’ Trio is just the latest to present this problem. Andy James’ recently released album Tu Amor also suffered from this detriment. That record was also released through Le Coq Records. So again, this is something that the label’s officials likely do need to address. If they don’t and this trend continues, it will cause increasing problems for the company and its artists.
While the lack of information on Trio’s songs is unquestionably problematic for the record’s presentation, it does not make the record a failure. To its benefit, that lack of information could actually lead listeners to begin their own journey of musical discovery and maybe even a lifelong love of jazz, as a result of having to look up the information. Moving on from that, there is still one more item to note here, and that is the group’s very performance of the songs. The trio’s performance of ‘Good Morning Heartache’ for instance, gives the Billie Holiday classic a nice touch even without the strings that were so abundant in the original. Even without Lady Day’s vocals here, listeners can still hear her voice here. Cunliffe’s performance on the piano and Colaiuta’s performance on the drums are equally subtle here as in the original, making for even more enjoyment. The short and simple is that the song stays true to its source material, but still gives listeners something new and unique here that is also enjoyable.
The trio’s take on Thelonius Monk’s 1962 song ‘We See’ is another example of the importance of the performances featured here. While the sax line from the original is absent here, Patitucci’s performance on stand-up bass takes on that part strongly. At four minutes, 19 seconds, Patitucci and company’s version is far shorter than that of Monk’s original. The original comes in at just under 12 minutes. Even despite that, it has all the energy of the original. Colaiuta’s drum solo adds even more spice to the group’s take on the song, making it just as enjoyable as its source material if not more so.
Cunliffe and company’s take on Wayne Shorter’s ‘Ana Maria’ is yet another example of the importance of the group’s performance of the record’s featured songs. Patitucci seems to take on Shorter’s saxophone line on his bass while Cunliffe moves fluidly along with the original piano line. Colaiuta’s performance on the drums once more adds a welcome subtlety to the song. The whole of the song proves just as enjoyable as its source material. When it is considered along with the other performances noted here and the rest of the group’s performances, the whole of those performances works with the importance of the songs themselves to make this record worth hearing at least occasionally.
Le Coq Records’ recently released album Trio is a positive collaboration from its featured performers. It is a presentation that any jazz lover will enjoy. That is due in part to its featured covers. The songs take listeners on a musical journey through the history of jazz in the 20th century and serves as a starting point for any discussion on the genre and its music. While the record’s featured songs are themselves are undeniably important to its presentation, the lack of information on the songs anywhere in the record’s packaging detracts considerably from the compilation’s presentation. It is not enough to make the record a failure. The group’s performance of the songs puts the final touch to the record. The group’s performances stay true to their source material, but also give the songs a somewhat new identity, making for even more interest. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of Trio. All things considered, they make Trio a presentation that any jazz fan will find worth hearing at least occasionally. Trio is available now.
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