You might call this a typical piano trio album, except that the trio is led by a drummer – Jacob Melchior. Jacob was born in Denmark in 1970 but moved to New York via Brazil in the 1990s. He has played with the likes of Clark Terry, Frank Wess and Eric Alexander, and this is his third album as leader. The trio is completed by Japanese pianist Tadataka Unno and bassist Hassan Shakur (formerly J. J. Wiggins, son of pianist Gerald Wiggins).
As the leader, Jacob Melchior is not backward in coming forward, contributing drum solos to most tracks. This is easy to take, as he is clearly a talented drummer with a good feeling for dynamics and time, holding the group together. Yet he is almost overshadowed by the pianist, who states melodies sensitively and creates imaginative improvisations. For instance, note how he slips a brief hint of Rachmaninov’s Paganini Variations into his solo on The Lady of My Life/My Baby and later broadens out the music with rippling trills. His playing sparkles on Dancing Foo/Squatty Roo, a medley of a Melchior composition and a famous Johnny Hodges tune, separated by a drum solo which strongly suggests the melody. Tadataka is also superb on You Don’t Know What Love Is, sounding like Oscar Peterson in his more restrained moods.
Antonio Carlos Jobim’s bossa nova Brigas Nunca Mais is delivered with cool subtlety. Guest vocalist Frank Senior makes an appearance on For All We Know but I am not particularly enraptured by his straining for effect and echoes of the Rat Pack.
Stevie Wonder’s Bird of Beauty is a characteristically wondrous composition, given a bustling Latin rhythm by the trio. The bassist and drummer share groovy eights. The bassist also gets to solo on Summer Fair, interpolating impudent quotes from Suicide is Painless and Holiday for Strings!
Tadataka states the tune of It Might as Well be Spring beautifully, moving into waltz time for the bridge and his floating solo. The CD ends rousingly, starting with a fast Lover (including plenty of drum breaks and some tearaway piano) and moving almost imperceptibly into the bluesy Gerry’s Wig, which actually sounds like an improvisation upon Lover.
This is no ordinary piano trio CD, as all three musicians are extra-special exponents of their instruments. Watch out for their names on future albums.