The Jerry Granelli Trio — The Jerry Granelli Trio Plays Vince Guaraldi & Mose Allison
(RareNoise RNR120, 2020, CD / LP / DL)
by Jon Davis, Published 2020-12-18
I sometimes have a problem enjoying jazz music by piano trios. The field is rife with clichés and even skilled musicians can end up sounding like something you’d hear in a campy lounge. Drummer Jerry Granelli, with this collection of tunes associated with Vince Guaraldi and Mose Allison, avoids this problem handily by featuring Jamie Saft on piano, who attacks the instrument with his usual gusto and does not shying away from enthusiastic ventures outside the chords. Given the subject matter, there’s also a touch of light-hearted humor about the project, as well as hints of the blues. Of course, there aren’t a lot of piano trios where the drummer is actually the leader, but listening to this album, it’s not apparent who’s in charge, as the three function in equal capacities within the arrangements. Saft is predominant in the sound, providing the majority of the melodic content as well as solos, but bassist Bradley Christopher Jones has ample opportunities to step up with supporting parts that are creative enough to draw attention, as well as numerous excellent solos. Granelli doesn’t take that many solos on the kit, but his rhythmic work is superb, driving the energy higher on the upbeat tunes and providing color on the slower ones. Allison’s quirky blues tunes comprise the bulk of the set, and their rendition of “Parchman Farm” is a highlight, starting out fairly straight but venturing into outside territory over the course of eight minutes, with solo piano diversions that drift far afield. I also really enjoy their take on the classic “Baby Please Don’t Go,” where Jones and Granelli set up a wonderfully intricate rhythmic interplay with hints of both soul and latin. “Your Mind Is on Vacation” is positively nuts at times, and features a nimble bass solo. For the Guaraldi side, they don’t do “Linus and Lucy” but they do take on “Christmas Time Is Here,” which finishes the set in a gentle mood. Jerry Granelli’s trio has created what to my mind is one of the best piano trio albums of the year.
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