There's much to be said for holding a band together over the course of years and performances and album/CD releases, honing the familiarity, comfort level and the intricacies of interplay. Think of the two great Miles Davis Quintets, or Keith Jarrett's Standards Trio.
There's also a lot to be said for the one-off affairs, the freshness and spontaneity and energy of a group of like-minded artists getting together for a single recording.
Pianist Clay Giberson's working unit is the Upper Left Trio, a Portland, Oregon-based group that has put out three fine CDs on Origin Records, this in addition to three solo discs on the label. On Spaceton's Approach the pianist gets together with two musicians he'd worked with in New York in the earlier days of his career, bassist David Ambrosio and drummer Matt Garrity.
Of the seven tunes on the disc, five are Giberson originals and two come from the standards catalog, beginning with a buoyant nine minute exploration of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "It Might As Well Be Spring." The beautiful, familiar melody is treated with respect as the trio stretches out, displaying a lively chemistry and an empathic equilibrium.
Giberson's own compositions, beginning with "From the Outside," are engagingly melodic and inventive, with the pianist showing off a sometimes strong and succinct, sometimes gentle touch with a waxing and waning intensity and momentum.
The title tune has a bit of a modern and edgy feel. Giberson dances over a smoldering rhythm?a bass heartbeat and low thunder rumble of drums punctuated by cymbal lightning flashes as the intensity level builds before a fade into a restrained yet rollicking Garrity drum solo. "Trust" has the group working in a more introspective mode. It's another attractive Giberson composition, with a melody that sounds as if it could come from the Great American Songbook.
Miles Davis' "Solar" gets a thirteen minute treatment here. The trio unwinds a crisp-but-fluid take on the always modern-sounding tune. A high level of three-way spontaneity reigns, with Ambrosio in the groove and Garrity sizzling behind Giberson's keyboard.
Clay Giberson's Spaceton's Approach is his finest outing to date?one of the top piano trio efforts of the year.