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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

CD Review: Adam Birnbaum Trio - Three of a Mind

 Adam Birnbaum (pno); Doug Weiss (bs); Al Foster (dms).
(Review by Dave Brownlow.)
This is a piano-led trio by up-and-coming pianist Adam Birnbaum, already well known on the scene in the U.S. who has been mentored by no less than Kenny Barron and has studied under Fred Hersch. On drums is the excellent Al Foster – Miles Davis’ regular accompanist during the 1970s and early ‘80s - and, completing the group, bassist Doug Weiss providing non-flashy support with all the necessary credentials – ie: good time, nice tone, well chosen notes and melodic solos. He swings too! 
The Trio’s been together now for six years and this shows in the cohesion of a regular working band. Birnbaum has composed seven and Foster two of the pieces on the CD. An album of “original compositions” usually fills me with trepidation, but generally these nine songs are accessible, with chord sequences you can actually follow…..Binary opens the set strongly with quite dramatic descending chords leading to such a logical piano solo. Dream Waltz follows with melodic, lyrical piano and bass solos and there is integrated trio work a la Evans/La Faro/Motian. Thirty-three is next “Monk-ish” in style. This, dare I say it, sounds jaunty, almost old-fashioned, swings like Thelonious’ trio with Heath and Blakey and is a tribute to the master himself! Rockport Moon is “Bill Evans - like” using a chord sequence with a nod towards to Bill and Miles’ “Blue In Green”. Adam’s solo ebbs and flows in rhapsodic elegance - not copying Bill, but very much in his own way. Track 6 - Stutterstep is an imaginative theme enhanced by some lovely “La Faro” type interplay from Doug Weiss followed by a satisfying swinging 4/4 section and musical fours with Foster. Kizuna is next - an attractive theme which develops into a medium-tempo shuffle with plenty of glittering, cascading right hand piano runs. I detect a touch of Vernel Fournier’s quality in Foster’s cymbal work – just right for this trio! Dream Song #1:Huffy Henry has an altered blues chord sequence following a dissonant intro which leads into several cool choruses. Fosters second composition Ooh, What You Do To Me closes the album. An up tempo piece showcasing Adam’s fleet-fingered approach, also features lively contributions from the composer’s drums. Overall, an attractive record from a talented pianist with a bright, clean touch at the keyboard, having more than sterling support from his bass/drums duo ; currently available from www.adambirnbaum.com on DAEDALUS Records.
Dave B.

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