Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Firehouse Spring Season Finale + CD Pick

Bassist Scott Colley is a big man, plays a big double bass and gets a big, rich tone.  He has worked with many great jazz players since graduating from Cal Arts in 1988 including Herbie Hancock and the late Andrew Hill, guitarist Jim Hall, saxophonists Chris Potter and the late Michael Brecker as well as the drummers Brian Blade and Roy Haynes.  His 7th CD as a leader, "Empire" (CAM Jazz), issued in 2010 featured Blade, trumpeter Ralph Alessi, pianist Craig Taborn and guitarist Bill Frisell. He's a melodic player whose pieces are intelligent, well-constructed works that often revolve around the interactions of the players as opposed to lots of solos.

The Scott Colley Trio is the 13th and final act in the 2011 Spring Season at Firehouse 12, undoubtedly the most successful series in the 6 years that the recording studio/performance venue has been open for shows.  Joining the bassist will be pianist Kevin Hays (raised in Greenwich, CT) and drummer Bill Stewart.  They'll play 2 sets, the first at 8:30 and the second at 10 p.m.  For ticket information, call 203-785-0468 or go to

Everywhere one looks and listens, you can hear a piano trio (notice the band above; led by a bassist, it's still a piano threesome.)  There are months when the majority of new releases feature a group composed of piano, bass and drums.  It was the preferred setting for the late Bill Evans and the very much still active Ahmad Jamal while Keith Jarrett's Standards Trio has been together nearly 3 decades.  For the past decade, The Bad Plus has created a fascinating repertoire of great originals, classic Rock covers and classical music.

Into the mix comes the Philadelphia-based Rhinoceri TrioBrendan Cooney (piano), Chris Coyle (bass) and Gregg Mervine (bass) have just issued their debut CD, "Libera Me" (self-released) - the 12 tracks range from the Gabriel Faure-penned title track to Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman" to Duke Ellington's "I Like the Sunrise" (from "The Liberian Suite") to classical works by JS Bach, Richard Wagner and Claude Debussy to 6 originals.  There are easy comparisons to TBP and its penchant for clever rearrangements.  Mr. Bach's "Fugue in C Minor"gets a Brazilian lilt in the midst of its handsome melody while Debussy's "Dr. Gradus ad Parnasum" sounds as if it were arranged for Emerson, Lake and Palmer. "..Sunrise" features the pleasantly understated vocal of Samantha Rise while "Lonely Woman" is taken at a quicker, but not fast, pace and is one of the highlights of the CD.  After a lengthy bass solo, the trio rocks out on the piece.  Of the original pieces, Cooney's "Out and Up"  has a playfully skewed Latin rhythm while his "Rhinocerous" starts slowly but then jumps to a rock-ish beat with the occasional move into bop. Bassist Coyle's "WD40 (c) Blues" opens on a short drum solo before moving into a melancholy and contemplative ballad. Mervine's drum work throughout is exemplary as he thinks melodically while his pounding floor toms (especially on "Jungle Trail Comeback") and splendid use of his various cymbals is a real treat.

The debut of the Rhinoceri Trio is impressive; nowhere near as ponderous as its namesake, the band delivers a surplus of ideas, strong instrumental interactions and great promise. For more information, go to   

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