Californian Bruce Barth has been part of the New York jazz scene since 1988. His trio for his 17th album has two frequent collaborators, bassist Vicente Archer and the late drummer Montez Coleman, who died at just 48 of congestive heart failure in January. The chemistry is apparent, every track having the feeling of a first take.
Barth is an excellent composer. His brilliant, memorable melodies leave a lasting impression and he excels at shifting the mood from one track to the next. This date kicks off with "George's Dance", named for Barth's neighbor and crackling with energy. "Courage" is a breezy waltz and one can hear the influence of a number of pianists in Barth's solo, especially Wynton Kelly. The poignant "In Memoriam" is a moving elegy with a bluesy air. "Let's Go" is a robust tribute to McCoy Tyner, avoiding direct imitation but with moments where his approach is heard in Barth's touch.
Archer and Coleman shine with their fiery accompaniment. "Golden Glow" is lush and impressionistic with a constantly evolving perspective, Coleman's percussive accents coming through even in the midst of Barth's intense solo. The jaunty "That's How It Sometimes Goes" salutes the late Tommy Flanagan, capturing the humorous side of the piano master. "Softly, In A Garden Path" provides a surprising conclusion to the session, a loping, yet intricate ballad, which best showcases the interplay of this engaging trio. If Bruce Barth's music hasn't been on your radar, give this CD a spin and discover for yourself what makes him essential for fans of mainstream jazz piano.