Half Notes: Bruce Barth Trio – Live At Smalls (2011)

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I took a quick survey of pianist Bruce Barth’s discography, and the album titles go like this: Home: Live in Columbia Missouri, Live at Café Del Teatre, Live at The Village Vanguard, Hope Springs Eternal, Live. So when New York’s legendary Small’s jazz club asked Barth to make a live record for their fledgling smallsLIVE label from a two night engagement there, was there any doubt that Barth was going to say “yes”?

Actually, this longtime veteran of Terence Blanchard’s band, composer and bandleader seems to thrive in the dimly lit limelight of the jazz dive. Joined by respected sidemen Vicente Archer on bass and Rudy Royston on drums, Barth put together a program entirely of his compositions—save for “Good Morning Heartache”—that gives his cohorts the space to swing and play loosely. Barth himself has his own hard swinging style that takes ideas from an older generation’s best pianists like Red Garland, Wynton Kelly and Oscar Peterson, combined with the modernity of Corea, Evans and Hancock. His compositions are sometimes deceptively simple but with harmonically competing currents underneath (“Oh Yes I Will”), or just straight-at-ya bass walking blues (“Almost Blues”). Regardless of the song vehicle, he gets Archer and Royston involved. The quiet, Evan-esque waltz of “Sunday,” the syncopated Brazilian funk of “Wilsonian Alto” and the soul-jazz groove of “Looking Up” are the highlights.

Live At Smalls was released last April 26. Go browse around in Bruce Bart’s website here.

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Half Notes is a quick-take music feature on Something Else! Reviews, presented whenever the mood strikes us.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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