Digital Victrola 2022
One little band from America find new ways to elevate traditional values, take it all above the obvious and get away with it.
It’s immensely heartwarming that, in our times of often pointless experiments, there are musicians eager to emotionally fathom the trad format of a jazz trio – and Andy Ostwald seems to know this too well. The Bay Area musician has quite a reputation as a teacher, who also penned a book titled “Play Jazz, Blues, Rock Piano by Ear” and implemented its theory in practice, and he shines the brightest as a performer; just ask anyone who frequented San Franciscan “Bocce Café” between 2011 and 2016, when the maestro, in the company of bassist Ravi Abcarian and drummer Bryan Bowman, used to grace the establishment’s stage. Still, the ensemble didn’t get to preserve their material on record until 2021, when a studio housed in the bandleader’s home provided them with a properly sounding environment.
No wonder, then, that comfort and warmth fill these numbers – ten covers and a sole Ostwald original, the album’s serene centerpiece “Meadow’s Edge” which points to the group’s further progress outlined here by their imaginative approach to such classics as “Sweet Emma” from Cannonball Adderley’s repertoire, where delicate trumpet lines have been replaced with a dry, if rapturous, piano romp – the mood set in motion with the immediately gratifying ivories’ filigree and four-string rumble applied to “Sonor” from Kenny Clarke’s cache of tunes. But then there are Wayne Shorter’s “Virgo” which is slightly troubled once quietly combustive beats ripple across the keyboard-encrusted elegy, while Keith Jarrett’s “Memories Of Tomorrow” and Larry Willis’ “To Wisdom, The Prize” – both written for the instrument Andy’s an expert of – demand more of the trio who carefully drive these gems away from the obvious to propel towards the great unknown of highly inventive improv.
So although “Like Someone In Love” and “I Hear A Rhapsody” will follow the old course even without lyrics attached, the songs are raring to venture off beyond it – and take off too, to flutter above the field this album is a guide for. A field for the intrepid spirits to stand out in.