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The Year We Turned It On by Ben Carr Trio

This piano-less trio is subtly misleading, because you can listen to it and groove to Carr’s sinuous tenor sax phrasing accompanied by the nuanced, modern rhythm unit of Leigh Barker on bass and Phil Collings on drums (unfortunate name, mate), and it sounds pretty thoroughly in the pocket. But closer attention will show the trio’s focus on less conventional techniques. Odd meters abound, frequently shifting within the course of one tune. Once in a while a twelve tone row will poke its head out to see what’s going on. About half of the tunes follow the traditional head-solos-head structure, while the other half are through-composed, unique structures.

So it’s a tribute to Carr and his group that it all sounds so smooth and inviting. Granted, he doesn’t seem to be one to head off into screaming-Coltrane-land, preferring a more measured approach to tone. That only makes the disc more listenable, perhaps, as the odd times and extended approaches to form are rendered warm and cozy. The three guys are very tuned into their collectively polite approach to challenging jazz. Going without a piano or other harmonic instrument is dangerous territory, at once freeing and treacherous, especially in the way of sameness. That may be where Carr could experiment with his tonal palette a bit. The tunes, however, have a nice wide variety of moods and grooves, and Collings and Barker work hard to constantly evolve the rhythm. It’ll be really nice to hear where this group goes in a year or two.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Ben Carr Trio
  • CD Title: The Year We Turned It On
  • Genre: Progressive
  • Year Released: 2008
  • Record Label: New Market Music
  • Tracks: Take Two, Livewire, Zip It, C.E.R.N., We Three, Intervals & Meters, Slow Down, Through Too, Unit 6, Hazardous
  • Musicians: Ben Carr (tenor saxophone), Leigh Barker (bass), Phil Collings (drums)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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