There's never enough of the style of guitar trio music that Greg Skaff makes, the old Wes Montgomery / Grant Green / Pat Martino / early Geroge Benson ilk, and 116th & Park is soaked with it but also goes a step further, verging upon John Abercrombie territory, and those familiar with that seminal jazz-fusion giant will recall his fondness for jamming with organist Dan Wall. In Pat Bianchi, then, Skaff has found his Wall, 'cause Bianchi's all over the place, as articulate, frisky, and modally diverse as the guitar player. Then there's drummer Ralph Peterson Jr., a supple skinsman who not only is perenially rolling through endless attacks and subtle undersides but possesses the infinitely valuable ability to punctuate like a master writer…not only where you expect it but also where you don't, and therein lies all the intrigue in percussionistics.
Lapis, however, has Skaff switching to an acoustic Spanish classical guitar for the intro, its musky flavor retained when he brings the electric back in as Bianchi swirls underneath him. Listen, though, as Peterson assumes a Trilok Gurtu role later in the cut, exotic and dense, very close to Jon Christenson's often quietly intense conversational mode, Skaff waxing Gabor Szabo-esque as counterpoint. More than once throughout this disc, I was reminded of Mimi Fox's work, whose voice is frequently pitched in higher register as well as melodically more Romantic, thus more Jim Hall-esque, but still maintains a nice link between bop and post-bop, just like Skaff.
A number of standards are covered in fine improvisational form—Mabern's Beehive, Ellington's Come Sunday, Monk's Bye-Ya, etc.—as well as five originals by Skaff and one by Peterson Jr., Skaff's Tropicalia returning to the acoustic guitar and carrying heavily Brasilian inflections. Invocation becomes highly fusionistic while Ellington's Come Sunday is a layback, a reflection on the sabbath day of rest and reflection, slo-lyrical, Skaff making every note count. All in all, then, this disc isn't just energetic and refreshing, it's a tonic for troubled minds in weird times and arrives not a moment too soon. Forget the world for a while.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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