Four months ago, keyboardist Gregg Karukas, drummer Shannon Ford and bassist Carl Cable were known as the East Coast Offering, a name and a sound that always figured prominently behind that of leader and saxophonist Tim Eyermann. Today, they have a new name, a guitarist -- Wink Robinson -- and a new sound that is warm and rich in musical detail.
They appeared at Blues Alley last night for their first feature engagement, and the effects of the recent developments were remarkable. Now that they have shed the flabby arrangements and near-obsession with riffing that characterized their Eyermann days, they are free to concentrate on their compositions.
"Pacifica" and "Love Rise" were finely crafted songs that were accented by Robinson's blues-tinged guitar and propelled by the precise rhythms of Ford and Cable. Karukas' keyboards provided a wealth of tonal colors and his piano solo on Clifford Brown's boppish "Joy Springs" was a welcome contrast to the electronic duels that he engaged in with his former leader.
Natural Bridge has discarded many of the "fusion" cliches of its past and is emphasizing a style that is more melodic and "musical" in feel and content. Sometimes even musicians need a change, and with this group, the results have been all for the good.