Friday, January 25, 2008


YOU CAN'T JUDGE a pianist by the tunes he covers . . . or can you? "Peace," the latest CD by the Larry Brown Trio, certainly looks appealing, particularly to fans of jazz piano, as it features pieces by Thelonious Monk, Horace Silver and Bill Evans, among others. The album lives up to its promise, too, thanks to engaging arrangements.

Brown isn't interested in mimicking the pianists he admires or deconstructing their tunes. He's a melodist at heart, well-versed in swing and bop traditions and fond of unfussy arrangements. His trio's rendering of Monk's "Straight, No Chaser," for example, isn't laced with the usual assortment of harmonic cliches. Instead, the trio moves from push-pull cadences into momentum-accruing choruses and crisp exchanges.

Likewise, the arrangement of Evans's "Letter to Evan" evokes the composer's touch without sounding overly derivative. The ballads, including the Johnny Mandel gem "Emily," are often enhanced by subtle tempo shifts and deft rhythmic support from bassist Kent Miller and drummer Greg Holloway.

All of the tunes were arranged by Brown save for Ralph Moore's expansive treatment of "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most," a colorful showcase for guest trombonist Jerry O'Sullivan.

-- Mike Joyce

Appearing Saturday with Michelle Walker at the BlackRock Center for the Arts (301-528-2260, Show starts at 8.

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