New York-based Trio East includes Eastman School of Music faculty members Clay Jenkins (trumpet), Jeff Campbell (bass) and Rich Thompson (drums). This unconventional jazz trio configuration challenges the myth that one needs a chordal instrument to complete an ensemble. Their skillful and melodic soloing, intuitive interaction, and compositional prowess more than compensate for the lack of a piano or guitar.
The nine tunes on the recording include five original compositions and several jazz standards. Stylistically, the tunes range from what might be described as "jazz reggae" ("Professor Atticus") to modal ("West End Avenue"), post bop ("I Let A Song Go Out of My Heart," "Sweet Sixteen"), half-time shuffle ("Best Bets") and traditional jazz ballad ("Cry Me A River"). Jenkins is a soulful improviser and composer and Campbell a superb accompanist and soloist. Thompson stays true to the style of each tune, particularly the rolling ballad "Hat In Hand," where he uses mallets on the drumset to create an undulating feel a l· Elvin Jones. His brushwork is excellent, his time is flowing and his solos are loose, creative and fluid. He even contributes a nice jazz waltz original ("Les is More") to the project. This record is a study in the diversity of grooves that modern jazz drummers should have at their disposal.