March 23, 2009
Steve Lantner Trio
What You Can Throw
Reconfiguring the classic jazz piano trio, Boston-based pianist Steve Lantner tosses many of its conventions into the air but catches enough of them with both hands to create a fully satisfying CD.
Superlative when the tracks are kinetic and contrapuntal, the trio’s sole miscue is dawdling over Ornette Coleman’s “Broken Shadows”, scaling it back so that it resembles a late-night ballad. Other tracks make up for this with a focused time sense and rhythmic clarity. Drummer Luther Gray outputs power while sensitively advancing the tunes with syncopated pumps, pops and wire-brush grazing. Bassist Joe Morris vamps strongly when he’s not intricately strumming – no surprise for someone who also gigs as a guitarist.
Always careful to recap the head in accepted Freebop fashion, Lantner is most imaginative when the group outlines his own compositions – “What You Can Throw” and “All Around”. Built on high-frequency arpeggios and doubled vamps, the former incorporates swirling runs and flashing chords from the pianist that rub against drum rolls and thick bass patterns before concluding with an uncompleted-on-purpose thematic variation.
Strict in note choice and placement, Lantner hunts and pecks on the keys, progressively stretching the knitted-together arpeggios and note clusters further and further without rupturing the melody. Answering soundboard ripples are soon mated with snare ratamacues and cymbal ratcheting and mirrored by dynamic string pumping from Morris on the second piece. Finally turning onto itself the rondo theme is reasserted but with enough variation to bring out new, secondary sound coloration.
Throughout, the CD is simultaneously thoughtful, exciting and rhythmically satisfying.
— Ken Waxman
— MusicWorks Issue #103