Larry Goldings / Peter Bernstein / Bill Stewart - Toy Tunes

Label: Pirouet, 2018

Personnel – Larry Goldings: hammond organ; Peter Bernstein: guitar; Bill Stewart: drums.

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The trio of jazz organist Larry Goldings, guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer Bill Stewart, has started their adventures back in 1991 with the album Intimacy of the Blues, at that time led by the organist . Toy Tunes, a collective effort, is their twelfth album, and like has been happening before, includes originals penned by all the three musicians, jazz standards, and other remarkable compositions by creative minds such as Wayne Shorter and Carla Bley.

The trio opens the session with “Fagen”, an easy-going ride marked by an affable melody. Goldings dedicates it to the adult contemporary rock singer and keyboardist Donald Fagen, one of the two co-founders of Steely Dan. One can enjoy a sweet relaxation in this song, which leisurely unfolds from the smooth theme to dedicated improvisations by the organist and the guitarist.

Stewart’s “Don’t Ever Call Me Again” was first included on Scott Colley Quartet’s 1997 album Subliminal, getting the first-rate treatment here as it shapes into a sultry groovy song conform to a 6/4-meter signature. The melody, empathically expressed with playful irony by Bernstein, is placed on the top of the rich organ harmonies and contagious drumming pulse.

Bernstein is a masterful colorist, both harmonically and melodically, and his rubato introductory section of “Lullaby For B”, a waltz he wrote for his son, carries shades of Jim Hall in the chord voicings. 

Both the standard “I’m In The Mood For Love” and Charles Strouse’s “Maybe”, a number from his Broadway musical Annie, follow similar structural alignments, with Goldings designing the A sections of the theme and Bernstein taking care of the Bs. The latter piece spreads a swinging perfume that favors the rounded post-bop trajectories of the guitarist. After the respective improvisations, guitarist and organist team up by alternating eight bars of logical, creative phrasing before Stewart’s tasteful attacks.

Shorter’s “Toy Tune” is presented with less 30 seconds than the original version, which dated from 1980, and comes wrapped in the same sophisticated harmonic complexity. However, I missed the sound of the saxophone and the tune didn’t touch me as much as Carla Bley’s “And Now The Queen”, a beautiful four-bar melody reiterated with a mutable expressionistic touch. This song, tackled many times by pianist Paul Bley in solo mode, loses its reflective nicety in detriment of a futuristic organ-driven experimentalism. It never loses its achingly emotional quality, though.

With an incredible facility of adaptation, the trio dynamically convenes a set of jazz compositions for all tastes, treating each note, chord, and pulsation with a fleshed-out sense of purpose.

        Grade  B+

       Grade B+

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Fagen ► 02 - Don’t Ever Call Me Again ► 05 - And Now The Queen