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A Song in Jazz by Debbie Poryes Trio

Bill Evans’ 1961 trio recordings from the Village Vanguard cast a long shadow in modern jazz. Nearly every piano trio since is spoken of in relation to that groundbreaking group. That’s why it’s nice to find a fresh approach on the Debbie Poryes Trio’s A Song in Jazz. Obviously, the instrumentation is the same. But in this instance, Poryes doesn’t martial her forces in the same way Evans did almost a half century ago.

The first cut, "A Wonderful Guy," might lull a more complacent listener into thinking they’re listening to just another Evans disciple. It’s the rest of the album that strays from the formula. Take the fourth cut, "Alone Together": The intro is a wonderfully vibrant take-off of Chick Corea’s "Spain." Evans was not usually known for such driving and powerful exhibitions in his work.

The similarities to Evans come mostly from her relation to the two other members of her trio. Bassist Bill Douglass’ lines skip and sing like the tragic LaFaro’s did once upon a time. Indeed, Poryes’ single original, "So It Seemed," reminds one of a Bill Evans composition; contrapuntal lines calling to each other over a waltz-time dance. Drummer David Rokeach reinvents Paul Motian’s beautifully stirring brushes, trading to sticks for the foundation of the ever-building sound frame Poryes has used to scrape the sky with lush melody, harmony and rhythm.

Overly flowery sentiment? Possibly, but A Song in Jazz gives us many such moments to linger over and savor. One such moment (all such "moments" should be five and a half minutes long) is Poryes’ solo take on the classic "Pannonica." For once, a pianist frees herself to play the famous Thelonious theme without resorting to obvious "Monkish" idiosyncrasies. No whole tone scales, no banging on the bass keys, as lesser pianists are wont to do. Poryes plays her version of Monk’s classic with straight-ahead melodicism and rhythmic perfection, while tossing aside tired clichés like dissonance for dissonances’ sake.

No, Poryes and her genius partners never fall into the traps that have caught better known trios who should have known better. Just put A Song in Jazz on whatever sound device you have and enjoy. And don’t stop to replay certain passages to see if the Debbie Poryes Trio really did what you think you just heard. They did, and they meant it, too.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Debbie Poryes Trio
  • CD Title: A Song in Jazz
  • Genre: Contemporary Jazz / Modern
  • Year Released: 2007
  • Record Label: Jazzschool Records
  • Rating: Four Stars
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