Sunday, March 3, 2024

Three for All, All for Three (Piano Trios)

 There are weeks when all I want is music that challenges me, confronts my belief systems, and pushes at my expectations. Then, there are times I want my music that comforts, wraps its warm sound around me, has rhythms that make my feet move, and makes me laugh. Here are two trio albums that fit easily into the latter description with a little bit of the former.

Yes! Trio –– Ali Jackson (drums), Omer Avital (bass), and Aaron Goldberg (drums) –– has been a working band for nearly two decades. Yet, each member is so busy with his own group or as sidemen that they rarely get together. When they do, creative sparks fly!  Their debut album, released as "Yes" under all three names on Sunnyside Records in 2012, lays out their modus operandi. The songs are often blues-based, usually quite melodic as well as rhythmical, and their repertoire blends originals and standards.  The sound quality on the recordings is such that no one instrument is mixed above any other and the listener feels as if he or she is the middle of the band.

In 2019, the ensemble, now known as Yes! Trio, move to the French Jazz & People label to release "Groove du Jour", a delightful collection that often made one feel like dancing.  Just in time for the change of seasons, here's the band's third album "Spring Sings" (Jazz & People) –– if at first and second, the formula works really well, why change it?  Drummer Jackson composed six of the 10 songs on the program while bassist Avital added two plus plus there are two engaging takes on two recognizable standards.  "The Best is Yet to Come" (from Carolyn Leigh and Cy Coleman) swings with glee propelled by the thumping bass and dancing drums.  Goldberg's solo is as irrepressible as Jackson's "groove".  Irving Berlin's "How Deep is the Ocean" has a Caribbean "St. Thomas" feel in the playful drumming. Goldberg and Avital engage in a pleasing give-and-take before the the drummer heads off on a 4/4 rhythm with the bass. The bass solo is so deliciously melodic using the melody to jump into various adventures.  There's also an engaging "marching band" solo from the drummer before the song comes to its eventul conclusion.

The title track (composed by Jackson) opens the album. Quietly, the piece moves forward on strummed bass chords and martial drums while the pianist plays the sweet melody. Goldberg then joins with Avital's bowed bass to present a second melody; the powerful bass solo alludes to Igor Stravinky's "The Rite of Spring".  Listen below to Avital's "Sheikh Ali" (a play on words celebrating his rhythm section partner) to hear how well this Trio support and respond, how their conversation is so musical. The drummer returns the compliment on his "Omeration" –– all three play the theme before the pianist dances away on a lively solo.  Of course, Avital gets the spotlight as well. He is so articulate in the bass's higher register not unlike a cellist.  Then, the group "trades 4s" so that Jasckson gets to "play" as well. The program closes with Jackson's "Fivin" with its generous New Orleans rhythms (such funky tambourine), dancing melody lines, and, for a special treat for close listeners, the pianist's nod to John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" 40 second before the song ends.

I am mightily tempted to play Yes! Trio's three albums back-to-back; after all, one can truly not get enough of this band's splendid interplay, charming sense of playfulness, and its embrace of melody and rhythm.  Ali Jackson, Aaron Goldberg, and Omer Avital are good friends, great musicians, and the music they make can charm a listener in so many ways.  Put on this album and listen deeply –– I dare you to sit still and not crack a smile.  

To find out more and to purchase the album, go to

Take a listen to "Sheikh Ali":

The trio of Rodrigo Recabarren (drums), Pablo Menares (bass), and Yago Yazquez (piano) consists of two natives of Chile and one from Galicia, Spain.  The music on their second album "Familia" (Greenleaf Music–– the trio's 2017 album "Desde la Lluvia" was recorded and initially released in Chile)
reflects not only the musicians' roots but also their immersion into Black American music.  The nine tracks, all originals, often uses rhythms that "dance" rather than "swing" with melodies that suggest folk tunes.  The music is conversational and, on occasion, fiery but articulate and emotionally rich.

The program opens with "Santiago"; composed by the drummer, the music salutes his (and Menares's hometown) in melody and especially in rhythm. Listen below to how Vazquez caresses the melody supported by the warm bass sounds and the composer's martial drums (not unlike Brazilian "parade" drumming). With the rhythm section churning below, the piano solo is richly melodic. Vazguez's lovely "Terra" follows. The interaction between piano and bass is often stunning. Menares has a melodic streak a mile wide –– it shows in his works with vocalists Claudia Acuna and Camila Meza as well as with saxophonist Melissa Aldana. The bassist contributes "Viaje"; the opening melody suggests Milton Nascimento's "Ponta de Areia" plus there's a nod to that song's melody early in the piano solo.  Recabarren's haunting ballad "Lazo" finds him on brushes at the onset as Vazquez explores the melody. The drummer switches to sticks during the opening piano solo and back to brushes for the final verse.  

Vazquez's "Anninovo" moves seductively atop the rippling bass lines and the dancing drums.  The piano solo not only dances but also rings with short melodic phrases. Menares solos as well; he, too, is a wealth of melody but also reflects the rhythmic elements of the pianist's original melody.  The pianist's "Minho" is a ballad with a touch of Cole Porter in the melody and chords. His solo reflects a feeling of melancholy as well as a nod to Duke Ellington's "(In My) Solitude". 

"Familia" closes with the bassist's "Después De Todo".  The slower tempo allows for the listener to appreciate the handsome melody.  The piano solo ripples forward, a blend of long single-note runs and short chordal inserts. The music slows down with 95 seconds remaining for a coda that blends blues, longing, and a touch of sadness.  Sweet yet also haunting.

Rodrigo Recabarren, Pablo Menares, and Yago Vazquez have taken their myriad influences and experiences creating a program that not only reminds us how international Black American music is but also how that music benefits from the addition of elements from other cultures.  Isn't that how the music first came to be, a fusion of African, European, and South American elements.  The trio certainly sounds like a "Familia" and their sophomore album is quite the positive listening experience.. 

For more information, go to  To hear more and to purchase the album, go to (where you will also see a link to their debut release). 

Hear the opening track "Santiago":

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