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The Moon and the Lady Dancing by Michael Higgins Trio

Full disclosure. I like this one. Guitarist Michael Higgins is a teacher and first-call musician in the Los Angeles area. His mates here are the equally capable and busy Jay Anderson and Adam Nussbaum. All three players have long, impressive resumes that include credits for sessions with many well-known figures in jazz and other genres. For this album they've recorded ten originals by Higgins and two great standards, "Alone Together" and "In Love in Vain."

The originals are impressive, consistently melodic and hook-filled. The poignant "Kristin's Song" is first up. Nussbaum keeps the medium tempo percolating throughout. Higgins' guitar states the melody on both ends and has the only solo in between. Anderson sticks to color accents rather than a standard rhythmic bass-line, at times almost in a duet with the guitar. I don't know how long the trio has been together, but the interplay is a seamless delight.

"The Last Farewell" begins with a low-stringed, campy country and Western twang then segues into a shuffling, still C&W-tinged discussion. Again, and on most tracks, the guitar states the melody and has the only solo. An up tempo number, "The Little One's" has a brief exception as Nussbaum closes it out with a flurry. He also swaps fours with Higgins on "Zoot's Blues" and a fast tempo "Alone Together." Anderson solos gracefully on the genial version of "In Love in Vain" which closes the program.

"When Colors Turn" is a gorgeous and appropriately autumnal original. It would be easy to add lyrics and turn it over to the female jazz singer of your choice.

The title tune drives along with a rapid opening phrase that owes a bit to classical guitar, a bit to pop and a bit to jazz. It reminds us that Higgins has a Masters in Music from USC and cites influences from Andrés Segovia to Pat Metheney. He has reached a stage in his career when he is able to integrate those influences and do pretty much whatever he wants with a guitar. On this album, although the mood is varied and he throws off rippling rapid runs with ease, I think what he was after and achieves is warm, confident, satisfying beauty in tone and phrase. Enthusiastically recommended.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Michael Higgins Trio
  • CD Title: The Moon and the Lady Dancing
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2009
  • Record Label: Michael Higgins Music
  • Rating: Four Stars
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