Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Michael Pagan Trio: Three for the Ages

Capri Records
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 6.30.10
Buy CD: Three for the Ages

Thanks to the relatively low cost involved with recording and releasing CDs these days — it's almost a “do it yourself” project — we can be exposed to musicians whose talents never would have cracked the mainstream market back in the day.

Michael Pagan's trio is an example. The members of this group live and perform in the Kansas City area, but they're not well known outside that region.

Pagan, a pianist, is another of the multi-degreed artists who composes, arranges, plays and teaches. He's never needed to leave home to do any of these things, although — like most musicians — he has performed throughout the United States and Europe during his career.

Bassist Bob Bowman and drummer Ray DeMarchi, who support Pagan admirably, have been part of the trio long enough to produce that “these guys have been together forever” feel. This is particularly evident during their take on wonderful old ballads such as “You Don't Know What Love Is,” “How Deep Is the Ocean,” “I Should Care” and “Persona.”

All are lengthy arrangements that give the artists plenty of time to elongate and build on the basic melodic lines.

The seldom-heard “Gethsemane,” from Andrew Lloyd Webber's score for Jesus Christ Superstar, is particularly noteworthy; the interplay between piano and bass is masterful.

The album also includes several mid- to up-tempo tracks that lighten the mood and add to the listening pleasure. This is an extremely pleasant release by a trio of excellent musicians who have that important basic ability: they swing.

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