A piano trio, a good one, can come from anywhere. The cleverness, the connecting, the perfect sense of anchoring, the snappiness that makes the piano-bass-drums trio such a classic sound even when it moves forward, it all comes from signature, and there are signatures everywhere. New Orleans signature sounds have a ragtag sense to them, rough around the edges from centuries of lovingly performing the act of loving. That kind of signature can make for a pretty good piano-bass-drums trio. Extended -- Oscar Rossignoli on piano, Matt Booth on bass, and Brad Webb on drums -- have all the attributes of a clever New Orleans piano-bass-drums trio. (And it's part of my signature that I'm a sucker for those.)
Mandolinist Chris Thile and pianist Brad Mehldau have been playing together for a little while now. I got to see them play together in Austin back in 2013 and was certainly impressed, wondering why this hadn't happened before. To steal from my exposition of almost four years ago, "The master piano player, known worldwide as a game changer in the jazz genre, seemed the perfect fit for the man recognized by the nebulous MacArthur Foundation [in 2012] for stretching the boundaries of bluegrass music. Thile always had a jazz sound to his frenetic, mellifluous style of plucking and Mehldau always had a little bit of everything else." This same rationale still applies now with the release of their double album out now on Nonesuch.
I am extraordinarily excited about bassist Linda Oh. I still keep her last album, 2013's Sun Pictures, in steady rotation. I feel genuine guilt that I didn't love it more in its time and semi-regularly sing that album's praises to this day on assorted social networking entirely unprovoked, wondering if this shouting into the void is changing any minds at all about how utterly brilliant Oh is, how her band is, how that collection of songs is, and how it should stand throughout time as one of the finest jazz albums of this modern era. It made my honorable mentions in that year's Season of Lists. I was a damned fool back then. (I mean, seriously, I had Stephan Crump's Thwirl and Gilad Hekselman's This Just In, which I both still rock, hanging out back there with her; what the hell was I thinking?) Linda May Han Oh is an astoundingly impressive musician with as much soul as a bassist as she is as a composer. She never fails to disappoint and I'll keep telling people that forever.
A few weeks ago, numerous people on Facebook and I revealed our favorite albums from our high school years. In my corner of the internet, I felt a little alone having Al Jarreau's 1977 Grammy award-winning album, Look to the Rainbow: Live in Europe on my list, but I've often felt alone because of my personality and choices. This just seemed like part of it. Al Jarreau is of a particular taste and of a particular time, but he was one of the greats. Jarreau -- dead this morning, February 12, 2017, shortly after announcing his retirement -- has had a life that stood out on its own as a talent and ability worth marveling. He epitomized the voice as instrument.