On Sense, pianist Toby Koenigsberg's trio offers up a wistful and straightforward take on the American Songbook classic "My Foolish Heart," including a poignant, spare reading of the familiar melody. However, everything else on the disc pushes the boundaries.
The trio opens and closes the set with tunes by the New York-based trumpeter Andre Canniere: "Thirteen Species" and "Realizing." Both, like much of this material, have a mildly (and sometimes not so mildly) surreal qualityónoir-ish in the case of the opener, bouncing and bright with the closer. Both are full of intrepid interplay, like a mainstream trio veering off on a avant tangent, announcing a fascinatingly forward-leaning approach to the jazz trio.
Between the two Canniere tunes you'll find a couple of Bud Powell gems, "Oblivion" and "So Sorry Please," both stretched out nearly to the limits while still holding on, but just barely, to Powell's now-familiar lines. These are highlights, leaving the listener wanting more Powell interpretations. But a Koenigsberg original, a Bill Evans cover ("Show Type Tune"), and a couple of trio-penned tunes don't disappoint.
On Powell's "Oblivion" the trio goes into a jerky, manic mode. On "So Sorry Please," Koenigsberg and drummer Jason Palmer stutter and argue in a contentious conversation before bassist Tyler Abbott walks in strong and steady, mollifiying, lending the tune forward momentum. Marvelous! But then they argue again, and in walks Abbott again...
This fresh approach to the piano trio doesn't neatly fit any category. It walks a line between mainstream and free jazz nicely, with a lot of sharp edges and jagged angles stabbing around the familiar ground.