CD Review:

Piano-based trios are integral to jazz and while times have changed the traditionalism of piano, bass and drums collectively, improvising has not become fatigued or clichéd.

Drummer Jacob Melchior (pronounced mel-cure) understands. On his third outing as a leader, the self-released It’s About Time, the Denmark-born and current Big Apple artist showcases his rhythmic skills, arranging talent, flair for soloing and aptitude for communicating with his partners, pianist Tadataka “Tada” Unno and bassist Hassan J.J. Shakur (formerly J. J. Wiggins, the son of pianist Gerald Wiggins), plus vocal guest Frank Senior, who is featured on a lush translation of well-known ballad “For All We Know.” Melchior, Shakur and Unno have dubbed themselves Trio de Sum and they do indeed add up to something special.

The 50-minute, nine-track album starts with “Dancing Foo/Squatty Roo,” a medley of Melchior’s original tune with the Johnny Hodges’ classic made famous by Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald. The trio holds to a brisk pace with plenty of swing. On the first section, Melchior plays the melody over Shakur’s upbeat walking bass line and later Unno offers an example of his detailed and perceptive piano expertise. On the second part, Melchior takes a memorable solo that shares Billy Higgins’ impeccable timing with Ed Thigpen’s quickened sensitivity: both have clearly influenced Melchior.

There are three other notable medleys. Melchior merges pop hit “The Lady of My Life” – usually titled “Lady in My Life,” and popularized by Michael Jackson and Stanley Jordan – with trio-penned “My Baby.” “The Lady of My Life” tumbles along with a subtle mid-tempo groove wherein Melchior illustrates his proficiency at keeping assured time while he supplies supple textures that are never overdone: his rhythmic accents link a variety of phrases and melodic patterns that heighten Unno’s filigreed piano fills and Shakur’s mannered bass. Likeminded “My Baby” follows suit with broader rhythmic tones.

Melchior combines soulful standard “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” covered by everyone from John Abercrombie to Kai Winding, with his own composition, “Love Is What.” The first part has a puckish, relaxed demeanor. The tempo gradually picks up to a harder-swinging middle segment where the three musicians respond to each other with several fine moments and Shakur contributes a bass spotlight reminiscent of Ray Brown that underscores his technically incisive but gentle touch.

The final medley is a mélange of Rodgers-Hart’s “Lover” with Shakur’s tribute to his dad, “Gerry’s Wig.” The trio burns through “Lover” at a fast gait as they romp through the melody. Unno’s playing in particular is swift and stylistically expansive: it’s a fair bet Oscar Peterson is one of his inspirations. “Gerry’s Wig” has a mid-tempo stride and spirited groove that concludes with a witty outro.

It’s About Time was recorded and produced at Kakinoki Studios in the Poconos and proves artists no longer need much money or a large studio to obtain an audiophile-oriented outcome: one listen to the nuances between Melchior’s drums, Unno’s piano and Shakur’s bass attest that a small budget can now provide considerable results.

Reviewed by — Doug Simpson