Monday, February 15, 2010

The Trio"Live" at Charlie O's : LA's best kept secret

CD: The Trio "Live" @ Charlie O’s (Fuzzy Music PEP CD016)

The Trio is made up of three veteran musicians, Terry Trotter on piano, Chuck Berghofer on upright bass and Peter Erskine on drums.

I was unfamiliar with Trotter’s work but a little research was illuminating. A long time California resident, Trotter has played with Bobby Hutcherson, Charles Lloyd, Chet Baker and was a member of Art Pepper’s regular group at the famous Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach. Classically trained, he was once recommended for a gig with Miles Davis, but ultimately chose the stability of studio work, where he played with the very best in that system for twenty years. It is likely that we have all heard Mr. Trotter’s work without ever realizing it. Trotter may well be the best-kept secret on the California music scene.

His band mates in the Trio have equally impressive resumes. Bassist Chuck Berghofer was a long time member of the Pete Jolly Trio. He too was a much sought after studio musician.Berghofer has performed with countless singers including Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Joni Mitchell and Barbara Streisand. His slide bass line on Nancy Sinatra’s These Boots Are Made For Walkin' is an immediately identifiable example of this man’s memorable work.

Drummer Peter Erskine is a seminal figure in the world of progressive jazz drumming. He was an integral member of the jazz-fusion band Weather Report when bassist Jaco Pastorius was also a member. He was the driving beat behind the super group Steps Ahead, which featured Michael Brecker, Mike Maneri and Don Grolnick among others. He continues to push the envelope with his more recent collaborations with guitarist John Abercrombie, bassist Marc Johnson and saxophonist Bob Mintzer.

On “Put Your Little Foot Right Out”, a song famously played by Miles Davis on his album a "'58 Sessions, Featuring Stella By Starlight where he titled it Fran Dance, Trotter uses the easy swinging feel as an interesting vehicle of expression with his slightly dissonant take on the melody line. Berghofer contributes his own playful ideas on bass on top of Erskine’s barely perceptible brushwork. The only thing missing is the haunting sound of Miles’ muted trumpet.

“Afternoon in Paris” is a medium tempo John Lewis composition that is played here in a way that is eerily similar to the way the Bill Evans famous trio might have played this song. Erskine has the opportunity to open up a bit on his kit on this one. Trotter demonstrates some marvelously conceived two handed playing, finishing with an impressive lengthy arpeggio that keeps the audience at the edge of their chairs.

Trotter’s exceptionally beautiful take on “Ghost of a Chance” is a treasure .The understated elegance of his playing, with it’s slow, contemplative approach, is complimented by the subtle interaction of his astute rhythm section. The group mesmerizes the audience finishing to appreciative howls and applause.

On “How Deep Is The Ocean”, the buoyant bass of Berghofer keeps walking time in playful complicity with Erskine’s shimmering cymbal work, another example of top notch ensemble playing. Trotter prefers to play around the melody, charting a circuitous course that spans the entire keyboard. He uses ever so slightly dissonant chording to navigate the tune. Erskine’s subtle use of brushes embodies the essence of mature restraint until Trotter’s building intensity requires a more robust accompaniment.

“Blood Count” is a ruminative Billy Strayhorn composition made famous by Stan Getz. Trotter unfolds the melody, delicately unwrapping it like a precious gift. The rhythm section allows Trotter’s graceful musings to stand on their own, with the barest of accompaniment: a carefully plucked note by Berghofer, a slowly rising rush of cymbal by Erskine. The audience’s presence is barely noticeable they are so engaged. Pure magic.

“Charlie’s Blues” is a blues based number dedicated to the late Charlie Ottaviano, the original owner of Charlie O’s and himself a bass player. A picture of Mr. O, complete with his brush mustache and his upright bass, graces the rear wall of the stage at the club and the band has appropriately included the picture on the album’s rear jacket along with a dedication. The Trio continues a monthly residency at the club and for those in the LA area do not hesitate to experience their artistry “live” while you can. Their next gig is February 25, 2010,

While there is no substitution for being there, if you want the “live” experience that an exceptional piano trio can offer The Trio “live” @ Charlie O’s is the next best thing.

Musicians: Chuck Berghofer (bass);Terry Trotter(piano); Peter Erskine (drums).

Recorded: Live at Charlie O’s Jazz Club, Valley Glenn, CA January 27, 2009

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