Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Tom Warrington Trio: Back Nine

Jazz Compass
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 3.16.06
Buy CD: Back Nine

Take guitarist Larry Koonse, add well-known drummer Joe La Barbara, meld them with superb bassist Tom Warrington, and the result is one accomplished trio. 

The customary trio instrumentation consists of piano, bass and drums; replacing the piano with a guitar changes not only the sound, but the type of arrangement being played. 

When a pianist wants to hold a note, the pedal action holds not only that note, but also anything else played at that moment. This often results in a cacophony of sounds, so the piano is better suited to up-tempo melodic lines. 

A guitarist can hold individual notes without affecting other notes, thus providing a more harmonious and flowing melodic line for ballads. A guitar also is superior to a piano for blending lines with the bass. 

It's therefore no surprise that most of this album's tracks are slow- to moderate-tempo arrangements. That makes Back Nine wonderful jazz "mood music," but don't think it doesn't swing! 

Two of the tracks — "Light and Shadow" and "Labyrinth" — were written by Koonse; "Nardis" is a Miles Davis tune; the beautiful "Whisper Not" comes from Benny Golsen; and the remaining tracks were written by Warrington. All are a joy to the ears. 

This group is so laid-back, so innovative, that it's difficult to believe I'm hearing only three musicians. Back Nine is a true gem, and a must-have album.

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