May 12, 2016
Brian Groder Trio
R Train on the D Line
Latham Records 6001
By Ken Waxman
Brian Groder’s strength as a trumpeter/flugelhornist is that he has a clearly distinctive sound. Brian Groder’s shortcoming as a trumpeter/flugelhornist is that he has a clearly distinctive sound. The result is that while the music by Groder, bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Jay Rosen is of uniform high quality on the eight originals the trumpeter composed for this date, his style, plus the limitations of this particular format lead to a numbing sameness on many tracks. Like actors who are hilarious on other shows but are cast on a sit-com with an overly predictable premise, the musicians on the disc have to labor mightily to put an identifiable stamp on most tracks.
One way they do so is by setting up a few tunes as showcases. “Retooled Logic” for instance, confirms how Bisio, whose jazz bona fides encompass a powerful partnership with pianist Matthew Shipp, can also invest a tune with gorgeous cultivated textures that without fissure could easily be part of a romantic chamber composition. Meanwhile Bisio’s sophisticated string throbs maintain this tune’s swinging pulse even as the tempo slows. On “Drawing in to Pull Away,” Rosen, long affiliated with multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee, gets enough space to demonstrate his refined cymbal slapping and snare shaking technique, following setting up the composition’s big top-like orientation with drum rolls and gong reverb. Groder, whose background has ranged from composing for dance companies to improvising with the likes of pianist Burton Greene, makes his most personal statement on “Asterix” where his opening cadenza resembles the famous introduction to “West End Blues”, with the theme then pleasantly intensified by Bisio’s guitar-like strokes. As for the other tracks, like watching a set up on The Big Bang Theory which you’re certain was used on That ‘70s Show, double bass-brass harmonies and the construction of Groder’s solos frequently resemble one another so closely that they could be cut and pasted from one track to another. R Train on the D Line is this trio’s second CD and despite some strong playing, it appears that it has gone as far as possible in this format. Perhaps it’s time to add another participant.
Tracks: Quanta; Retooled Logic; Drawing in to Pull Away; Isolating the Why; Praxis; Asterix; Whispered Sigh; Keel
Personnel: Brian Groder: trumpet and flugelhorn; Michael Bisio: bass; Jay Rosen: drums
—For The New York City Jazz Record May 2016