This is a solid, straight-ahead piano trio in a well-chosen program. They play two originals and seven fine, but far from overworked standards. The arrangements are fresh sounding. The playing ranges from gently appealing on the old pop standard "I wish I Knew" to hard driving on Gigi Gryce's "Hymn of the Orient." These Chicago-based musicians are young, yet already in demand as sidemen for club dates and recording sessions. Ben Paterson is first-call pianist for Chicago tenor-legend Von Freeman.
It sounds like the group has been together for awhile and is playing familiar material. There's mutual anticipation and reinforcement, and the result is a professional-sounding blend in both the fixed parts of the arrangements and the improvised solos.
Things get off to a good start with Benny Golson's wonderful "Whisper Not" taken at a medium tempo. Paterson chords strongly in the left hand and swings nicely with clean articulation in the right. Jake Vinsel (base) takes confident advantage of his first solo shot and then the piano returns with the melody.
"Alice in Wonderland," a waltz, is up next. Paterson starts off in a reflective Bill Evans style, but driven by Deitemyer (drums), is soon swinging again.
The first original, "I Thought You Should Know," consciously or not, strongly suggests the main line of "Epistrophy" by Thelonius Monk and Kenny Clarke. It does have a bit of Monk's impish humor, but Paterson is a more mainstream player and stays in a comfortable loping groove. Dietemeyer is again strongly in evidence with skittering stick work on the rims and some heavy accents. He backs off during a bass solo and then pushes harder again while trading fours with Paterson before the final chorus.
Miles Davis' "Nardis" begins as a waltz then turns into a straight 4/4 during the bridge. It's another unhackneyed, but tasty, jazz standard. "Dancing in the Dark" is the best known tune on the album. The tempo is up. It's followed by Paterson's second original, "Manorism," taken at a slowish tempo that suits the attractive melody.
"Gloria's Step" was written by Scott LaFaro and is best known in a version he did with the Bill Evans trio. It's a great way to end an enjoyable session. (I am surprised though that there aren't a few more tracks since the release clocks in at only 48 minutes.)
This is a good era for the piano trio format. Paterson has a ton of awesome competition--Jarrett, Mehldau, Moran, and Charlap to mention just a few, but this is an impressive debut. Visit his Web site and try a taste for yourself.