On Sense, the Toby Koenigsberg Trio approaches jazz from intriguing angles, bringing an exciting energy and edginess to both originals and standards. The group's preferred organizing principle can be described as deconstruction by addition. The pianist/leader approaches Bud Powell's "Oblivion" by artfully inserting bits and pieces of the melody like someone would assemble a jigsaw puzzle: an arpeggio here, a phrase there, until the picture is clear. Another Powell tune, "So Sorry Please," initially stumbles around like a drunk on a bender, but when it sobers up, Koenigsberg's dynamic playing spurs drummer Jason Palmer and bassist Tyler Abbott on to greater heights.
The same scheme is in effect on "Stellaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!," a two-part invention based on "Stella By Starlight." The group nips mischievously at the fringes of the melody, dropping more and more hints of her identity. But just as she's about to be revealed, the trio glides seamlessly into "My Foolish Heart," a ballad played so wonderfully straight that it almost seems out of place. Koenigsberg's waltz "Variant Strain" shows his propensity to use a repeating bass figure as the center of his compositions. Not coincidentally, this song contains what may be the best all-around soloing on the disc, including Palmer's thrashing drums and Abbott's throbbing pizzicato bass.
With its humor, sense of style, and flat-out chops, Toby Koenigsberg's trio will engender comparisons to the Bad Plus. Both trios upend conventional song structures and expand contemporary definitions of jazz with an iconoclasm that's always been part of the music's best tradition.