A piano trio led by a drummer? While that may not always be The Natural Order of Things, it is here. The drummer is the veteran Ted Moore, his teammates the talented pianist Phil Markowitz and rock-solid bassist Kai Eckhardt. Moore composed and arranged (almost) all of the music, which enlivens themes from Brazil and Spain, embraces the classical canon, and embodies earnest tributes to Chick Corea and Miles Davis / Joe Zawinul.
The qualifier "almost" is needed owing to the inclusion of "Simple Gifts," written by Joseph Brackett and inserted by composer Aaron Copland into his Appalachian Spring suite. Moore wrote the other seven selections, starting with the incisive minor-keyed title song, which affirms from the outset that the enterprise is to lean heavily on alertness and teamwork. Markowitz cruises all over the keyboard, his dense chordal voicings underlined by Eckhardt's resonant bass and Moore's resilient timekeeping. The mood lightens on the Spanish-tinged "El Prado," which leads to the bright and charming "Waltz for Chick" (Corea) and the emphatic, shape-shifting "Beyond Silence" (Moore's homage to Davis and Zawinul) with Markowitz on Fender Rhodes. The trio veers to a more straight-ahead groove on "What's the Meaning of This," and surveys the lustrous rhythms of Brazil (Moore's home for two years) on "Amorzinha" before lending "Simple Gifts" a swinging framework that is far removed from Copland's more classical design. The bright and frisky "Theme and Variation in Db," a showpiece for Markowitz's darting piano, stamps a bold exclamation mark on the session.
While The Natural Order is Moore's first recording as leader of his trio, this is hardly his first walk around the block. He has honed his craft for years on gigs both here and abroad, and has performed with a host of jazz luminaries from Stan Getz and Marian McPartland to Herbie Mann and Joey DeFrancesco, among others. Even with that resume, it pays to have friends like Markowitz and Eckhardt in your corner when it comes time to put that experience on the line. A piano trio led by a drummer? Not such a strange idea after all.