John Patitucci / Vinnie Colaiuta / Bill Cunliffe
Le Coq Records
Le Coq Records is going for the Blue Note aesthetic – it’s there in the album cover design and also in the recording set-up; a wee super session, three legends assembled and the outcome is just one day of recorded work. TRIO is the first time pianist Bill Cunliffe, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and bassist John Patitucci have worked together on a session. All three are legendary players – Cunliffe was a player and arranger for The Buddy Rich Big Band and has been a semi-regular visitor to New Zealand shores thanks to Rodger Fox’s commitment to jazz. Vinnie plays across rock and jazz and to some he’s known for his work with the likes of Frank Zappa and Sting but he also tours with Jeff Beck and Herbie Hancock and he can be a straight jazzer when the mood is right. Patitucci is everywhere, perhaps especially of late – Wayne Shorter’s band, sessions with Chick Corea and his own work including a recent solo bass album.
This is just a wonderful, relaxed session – bringing to mind the glorious Bill Evans Trio heyday and stately albums by the likes of Red Garland, McCoy Tyner and Hampton Hawes. Piano-led outings where all three members of the band had moments to shine individually but were so crucially invested in the carrying of the tune.
The opener here is a George Shearing song, Conception. Cunliffe and Colaiuta each have a wiggle in their stride. And probably because Patitucci has agreed to carry the bags. From there it’s through a mix of standards and songs that, even if lesser known in the scheme are adored by all three members here; balladry (Ana Maria) and boppers (My Shining Hour).
The Miles Davis/Victor Feldman, 7 Steps To Heaven, is a brilliant showcase here for all three players and in particular shines the light on how they can make light work of something so spiritually heavy because of their shared talents and the amount of runs they each have on the board. Just a total class act.
Vinnie gets to show his chops – in the most musical way – on We See, a lovely, loping slow blues strut. Patitucci’s warmth is felt every step of the way but perhaps particularly on the closer, Just in Time and Cunliffe is so precise at stating the melody each and every time but never in a clinical sense, it’s always with a joy and well-roundedness.
This is both perfect for the beginner-jazz listener and totally extra for experts. It has layers – so easily accessible for anyone new to jazz and such a deceptively well-crafted set of playing experiences for seasoned old jazz heads. A masterclass.