Yawn: Yet another well-intentioned disc of modern instrumentals shaped by a triangle of piano, bass and drums. Yes, the piano-trio is the most popular configuration in jazz, but what separates Here from a gazillion and one lesser lineups is the democratic nature of this particular triumvirate. Customarily, piano-trios are fronted by, well, pianists. Ron Brendle, however, is a stand-up bassist, a modest man with unselfish tendencies. Like one of his teachers, bass giant Charlie Haden, Brendle believes that the thrust of his inspired strum and twang is to make everybody else in the band sound groovy. Accordingly, drummer Al Sergel and pianist Frank Kimbrough blow on Here with uncommon ease, like wisps of dandelion swept up and away by an invigorating rush of spring breeze.Stickman Sergel's smokin' stroking swings every which-way. His substantial gig-bag contains ear-enticing percussive tricks like N'awlins-style second-line butt-wag, swift four-to-the-bar gallop and even rattling press-rolls straight out of Sousa. If the secret of primo jazz drumming is to suggest rhythmic solutions without smacking the audience upside the noggin with the obvious, well, Sergel's drums and cymbals reveal the truth.
Meanwhile, Kimbrough, a Roxboro-native and now a fixture with the adventurous Jazz Composers Collective in New York City, turns in a relatively straight-laced but vigorous performance. On Brendle's Keith Jarrett-influenced "Sardenga," old-timers will recognize the tide-like rush-and-retreat of Kimbrough's surging 88s, a technique he first revealed on a beaten-up old upright at the old Cat's Cradle in Chapel Hill 25 years ago. Later on the disc, the now-mature pianist flip-flops effortlessly between the cool of Thelonious Monk ("Bemsha Swing") and the tropical splendor of "The Dolphin," a cerebral samba imported from Brazil. If you've been waiting to hear Kimbrough, typically a restless spirit, play contemporary jazz with one foot rooted firmly in the tradition, then Here is now.
Also brand new on Brendle's LoNote imprint (ronbrendle.com) is Autumn, a quieter duet date again reuniting the bassist with his old pal Kimbrough.