The Bill Peterson Trio’s self-titled, debut project delivers a combination of harmony, rhythm and interactive play that says "wake up, here we are!"
Pay attention to this music! It is passionately played and deftly engineered to capture the sound of a live club or concert setting. Well-balanced and expressive certainly never over-produced. The players are definitely from the Big Ears School of Listening. They provide splashes of color at the right times throughout the tunes. The support to and from each trio member elevates the collective playing.
Rhythmically the music really breathes. It creates and uses space very well. Swings hard when called for, relaxes and floats when needed. This is great music especially for the "active listener."
The open composition "556" comes at us with the full force of a very complex sounding rhythm. The melody certainly requires all ten fingers on the piano...hold on and listen. I really appreciate the skills of a trio drummer who can drive a tune without overpowering it. Ronen Itzik, does a fantastic job with his skilled brush work. He smoothly navigates through the composition and then deftly delivers a soothing samba feel that drives behind the soloing. He is then given space to stretch out over the piano and bass vamp. He gets a nice payback for the support provided his trio mates early on. "556" is a great composition with very complex layers that requires listener attention.
Peterson likes his music in odd time signatures. He is obviously quite comfortable with prime numbers. The ballad "Lullaby" comes with a three beat cadence. "One Horse Blues" uses five beats to the measure (Gid-e-up-hor-se). "Shadow Dancing" uses seven beats to the measure which certainly keeps you on your toes.
We get a break from the odd meters with the expressive arrangement of "Everything Happens To Me." Mr. Peterson seemingly uses the entire piano during this piece and is supported by a beautifully lyrical bass solo from Jeff Denson.
On "You’d be So Nice To Come Home To" the trio performs this jazz staple like a seasoned jockey riding a horse that wants to break loose and go full out right from the start. Not to tire out the horse (or the tune) too early, the trio holds in the reigns by increasing the energy in each chorus in small increments saving enough for a strong finish. Mr. Peterson’s starts his solo by developing single rhythmic patterns and turning them around harmonically, almost toying with the piano as it begs for more. Mr. Peterson works to exhaust the possible combinations of sequences and patterns. This type of solo, done well, builds incredible tension which allows the tune to build intensity. When the solo reigns are passed on to bassist Mr. Denson, he just keeps "walking on" nothing overplayed. Mr. Itzik then takes a turn and delivers a drum solo that, if you listen closely, delivers his melodic impression that holds true to the form of the tune. The trio than takes the song out as if in a victory lap. Fantastic work here.
"Notes on the Bridge" was originally composed for a Public Television documentary on the history of Florida. Mr. Peterson lists Keith Jarrett as the influence in composition style as well as improvisational approach here. This is an arrangement that shows the skills of the players as an ensemble.
"Eccentric Circles" just flat out swings. After an initial call to get ready, it takes off and Mr. Denson just drives the tune with his bass line.
We also get "Prelude to a Kiss". Listen to the voicing and how the melody comes out anew, like a new bloom on an old rose. This arrangement keeps moving at a comfortable pace never in a hurry.
"Countdown" arranged in a cat and mouse flow. A little hurry up, a little wait. Nice work here: dabble, dabble, swing, and swing harder.
We close with "One Horse Blues Rides Again"
So, place your seat in its upright and locked position and ensure your seatbelt is fastened. You are in for a very nice ride. Very well done.
Bruce Pulver, December, 2005