Those that travel in my cultural inner circle know nothing hits my musical sweet spot faster than a well executed piano trio. At the same time, nothing is more annoying than a pianist that treats the rhythm section or perhaps a special guest artist as nothing more than a sonic afterthought. Having been privileged to hear some killer work from some magnificent trios has also allowed me to develop the ability to spot those pianists whose talents would best be served in a lounge and whose rhythm section is simply there for the free drinks and to pick up their check later.
The Best Of All Possible Worlds is an appropriately titled release from pianist Louis Durra who simply put is a star in the making. What sets Durra apart from some of his contemporaries is not only does Durra draw from a more eclectic base but he simply hears the fundamental roots of sound in very distinct and different ways as this magnificent release runs the spectrum of straight ahead intensity to a whimsical quirkiness where all the participants fuse their voices together in one harmonious union. To close with turntable master DJ Rob Swift is simply a stroke of musical genius.
Perhaps it is the experience working as a film sound editor or maybe as a composer for theatre and documentaries but Durra lyrical development is for me like McCoy Tyner on steroids. Durra's voicings are contemporary in accessibility but old school in virtuosity. Had someone told me "All I Really Want" ( with DJ Rob Swift ) and that the Radiohead cover "No Surprises" would be two tunes blowing my mind on a piano trio release then you would have been in need of heavy sedation for the cultural anger stroke that I would have suffered. Durra takes these two gems to unthinkable heights. Being perhaps luke warm at best when it comes to Bob Dylan including those brave enough to attempt nothing more than what is a passable cover "Tangled Up In Blue" is reinvented with a harmonic sense of purpose missing in the original while retaining an organic lyrical direction that is captivating. Bassist Larry Steen and drummer Jerry Kalaf merge with Durra to create a deceptive and subtle swing that develops its own unique pulse as the release progresses. Simply put, each tune seems better than the last. The Durra tune "The Back Seat" kicks off with drummer Kalaf owning the pocket and a dynamite lyrical bass line laid down by Steen. This trio takes swing to another level. What hold the release together are the subtle nuances that all participants bring to the table, a true team effort for a sound and groove as effortless and infectious as one can find. "No Woman, No Cry" undergoes a delightful melodic re-harmonization of organic simplicity yet incredibly adventurous. The sign of true artistry is taking a tune from someone that has reached iconic status and placing your own stamp on the number without disrespecting yourself or the original and Durra and friends nail this effortlessly! Drummer Jerry Kalaf contributes the beautiful and poignant "Ersatz Waltz" for added flavor and texture to a release that seems constructed from the ECM play book of ebb and flow.
DJ Rob Swift would normally send me screaming into the night as a former card carrying member of the pseudo-intellectual jazz elite. Swift and Durra combine their amazing talents to bring yet another voice, a layer of texture that reinforces that jazz can move from serious and scholarly to the quirky and inventive and continue to develop as an art form that may be only scratching the surface.
A virtually flawless effort. A mix of the old and new with an eye always looking to the future.
Tracks: Tangled Up In Blue; Ersatz Waltz; The Bends; After Bends; Mad World; The Back Seat; No Surprises; 1234; After 1234; Code Monkey; No Woman, No Cry; All I Really Want (feat. DJ Rob Swift); After DJ.
Personnel: Louis Durra: piano; Jerry Kalaf: drums; Larry Steen: bass; DJ Rob Swift.