One of my favorite musical lineups is the saxophone-bass-drums trio. It's ideal for open ended musical exploration. It's highly democratic with all the instruments having an equal share in the ensembles, though inevitably the saxophone gets most of the solo space. Yet without a chordal instrument to lock things in, those solos tend to have a conversational quality. And the Seattle based trio of drummer John Bishop, alto saxophonist Rick Mandyck, and bassist Jeff Johnson are true to form.
Nothing fussy here. The heads are intriguing scene setters from which the musicians spin off flowing lines. The music always moves forward with Johnson's bass providing a deep hum of counterpoint and the leader punctuating the saxophone-bass exchanges. The music is melodic to its core as demonstrated on the wistful waltz "Lost & Found" by Mandyck. The composer pushes his horn up high so that it sounds in spots like a soprano giving the tune a fragile feel.
On the other end of the emotional scale is the prowling, almost sinister "Hurt Brothers" by bassist Jeff Johnson with its akimbo vamp that flirts with a backbeat. But even as the trio charges ahead led by Mandyck's bluesy exhortations, the rhythm section stays fluid. And when Bishop breaks out into his solo, he maintains a sense of corked up energy ready to burstóbut it never does.