A good jazz trio is a thing of beauty. But it can also be a thing of redundancy, given how so many of them are just piano, bass, and drums, and how, for every Red Garland Trio or Keith Jarrett / Gary Peacock, Jack DeJohnette team-up, you have sixty-seven others who add nothing new. Which is why I got excited by Seven pieces / about an hour / saxophone, piano, drums (CD, digital), the first album by the trio of saxophonist Mark Reboul, piano player Roberta Piket, and drummer Billy Mintz. Yes, a bass-less trio. Color me intrigued.
Roberta Piket, Billy Mintz, Mark Reboul
Seven pieces / about an hour / saxophone, piano, drums opens very slowly, with Reboul, Piket, and Mintz playing carefully and intently, almost as if they’re still feeling each other out. Or that they have upstairs neighbors and don’t want to be jerks. Either way, the opening song, “7 3/4,” is a rather moody and atmospheric affair.
Things get a bit more…okay, not aggressive, but more deliberate sounding for the second track of Seven pieces / about an hour / saxophone, piano, drums, “10,” in which both Reboul and Piket are more prominent, while Mintz adds some textural cymbal rhythms. Though, interestingly, it shifts at one point to Mintz’s perspective, with Reboul and Piket stepping back as the drummer creates a metallic atmosphere that carries the tune along until the sax and piano come back in towards the end.
Next, Reboul, Piket, and Mintz again take a carefully considered approach for “13,” on which they play even slower and more carefully than they did on “10.” But because this track is nearly twice as long — 13:06 vs. 7:52 — it ends up feeling more like a textural, evocative suite, like something that could be the score for a movie in which something sad happens, even when Piket gets a bit playful towards the end.
Seven pieces / about an hour / saxophone, piano, drums then hits the half-way mark with “3” (named, like all the songs, for about how long the track lasts). It’s yet another track where things start out moody and textural, except it slowly and steadily builds, with all three musicians getting louder and more deliberate, even if they do still sound like they’re carefully considering every note before they make it.
Reboul, Piket, and Mintz next go even moodier and more textural for the fifth track, “6 3/4,” which opens like a slow burn and never rises above a simmer, even when the notes start to come a bit quicker in the middle.
This slow, moody vibe continues on Seven pieces / about an hour / saxophone, piano, drums ‘s penultimate track, “9.” Though it sounds rather different than the others because it’s all about Piket, and she sometimes (especially towards the end) sounds like she’s playing as much with classical chops as she is jazz ones.
Things then take a rather odd turn with the album’s final track, “11 3/4,” which opens with what sounds like Mintz playing around with a marching band-esque drum beat. It really doesn’t fit the album’s otherwise moody vibe. It isn’t until about 4 minutes in that things start to turn, with Piket playing some really slow piano, but with Mintz continuing his drum practice sporadically, and Reboul staying on the sidelines for another couple minutes, only to come in with some late era Coltrane-esque free jazz sax that also doesn’t jell with Piket’s piano. It’s not a bad song by any stretch, it just doesn’t fit the rest of the album, like when Miles Davis tacked the peppy vocal song “Nothing Like You” onto the otherwise instrumental album Sorcerer.
In fact, were it not for “11 3/4,” I would’ve said that the only real bummer about Seven pieces / about an hour / saxophone, piano, drums is that it’s not just the first album by Mark Reboul, Roberta Piket, Billy Mintz, it’s also their last and only. Though Mintz and Piket have worked together since: with bassist Harvie S. on an album called You’ve Been Warned; on Mintz’s album, Mintz Quartet; and on Piket’s solo piano album of Mintz’s songs, Domestic Harmony: Piket Plays Mintz. Oh, and in life, as Piket and Mintz are married (no word on whether Reboul came to the wedding).
In the end,
if you stop the disc before the last track — thus rendering this Six pieces / about fifty minutes / saxophone, piano, drums — Seven pieces / about an hour / saxophone, piano, drums is an engaging album of moody music made by an atypical jazz trio, which itself makes this that much more interesting.