He's chosen a challenging format for his debut. While classic piano trios are anything but uncommon, it's hard to find anything new to say with piano, bass and drums. It's a lineup that easily descends into a "cocktail jazz" sound, as the work of countless trios playing lifeless interpretations of a limited book of standards across the country demonstrates. That's the kind of jazz that makes "soft jazz" sound so good to so many. Happily, there are young players whose creative impulses are as strong as their technical chops who are breathing new life into familiar forms, and Timo Elliston is one of them.
His task is made easier by the presence of two outstanding musicians, bassist Ed Schuller and drummer Ari Hoenig. Schuller is another second generation jazzman, son of Gunther Schuller, and through his work with artists like Paul Motian, Joe Lovano and Ron Blake, has become one of the formemost bass players on the international jazz scene. Hoenig, like Elliston, is part of the younger generation of jazz players, but in a relatively brief career he's amassed an impressive list of credits, playing with Joe Lovano, Dave Holland, Charles Frambrough, the Jazz Mandolin Project, Gerry Mulligan and many others.
In addition to the four pieces penned by Timo, The Cobbler's Son includes material from Wayne Shorter, Paul Pieper, Cole Porter and Timo's father, Ron Elliston. It's delivered in a style at times somewhat reflective of Bill Evans, at other times with echoes of Keith Jarrett, but those are just influences. The music here, whether original or covers, isn't imitative. Elliston and his bandmates display a creative freshness throughout the disc, and there's a high level of interpersonal communication and sensitivity that's the hallmark of any successful jazz venture, and especially important to the piano trio form.
Altogether, this is an outstanding debut by an artist who can only grow and make even greater contributions to jazz over time.