A few of the names Royce Campbell has played with will suggest his professionalism and range: Dave Brubeck, Nancy Wilson, Herb Ellis and Fred Hersch. Here he is joined by veteran Ron Free. Bob Bowen completes the trio. Though younger, he too has impressive credits and holds his own with solid rhythm and a generous allocation of solo time.
"Out of Nowhere" is the up-tempo opener. Free and Bowen bubble away with a touch of samba while Campbell states the melody and takes the first solo. Drums, then bass follow. Free grew up playing hard bop, but displays restraint and nicely varied color, and Bowen's line has more melodic interest than many fellow bassists can manage.
After, Campbell's caressing intro "Round Midnight" is a shade faster than usual. That dilutes the tune's sadness and brings out more of its beauty. The guitarist's lush tone and phrasing are in the spotlight throughout.
"Love for Sale" takes it up again with Free showing some New Orleans' shuffle. The guitar's main line and solo are followed by an extended stretch for Bowen, a shorter drum solo, then a group effort to take it out.
The album's only original is "Trio Minor Blues." Improvised for the recording, it proves Campbell can play effectively in the style, though closer to Wes Montgomery than BB King. Bowen too handles the mood with ease, and Free challenges without hogging the show.
The batting order changes for a medium tempo version of "I thought About You" as the bass announces the melody and takes the first solo turn. Campbell is next. Then bass and drums exchange eights before Bowen returns to wrap it up.
Full disclosure I love the old jazz standards just the way they are. Sure, I can dig it when Brad Mehldau deconstructs a melody to make it sound brand new, but there's nothing wrong with playing it straight yet again either. Pretty hard to improve on "Out of Nowhere" or "'Round Midnight." They and seven other classics are here with just enough innovation in arrangement, tempo and rhythm to keep them fresh. If you like the standards as much as I do, you'll find this a gratifying, satisfying set.