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January/February 2005

Benny Lackner Trio
Not the Same
Nagel-Heyer

Despite sharing a fondness for funky grooves, hard drumbeats and covers of pop tunes, the Benny Lackner Trio differs markedly from the Bad Plus: Where the BP goes for the jugular on its recordings, the Lacknerites keep it understated on Not the Same (Nagel-Heyer). We see this on "Will It Matter," the album's second track (right after the "99 Luftballons" cover), on which Lackner gives us a lilting piano melody that stays in a straight jazz idiom, with extraordinarily deft counterpoint from bassist Derek Nievergelt and subtle brushwork from drummer Robert Perkins. Hendrix's "If Six Were Nine" gets suitably rockish twangs and overtones from Lackner's vast array of electric keyboards, and Nievergelt and Perkins crank up rubbery low tones and drum-and-bass percussion under Mingus' "Moanin'," but in both cases the effect is subtle revelation rather than total demolition. Funkier originals like "Red Hook" supply supple, seductive grooves. And despite the jam-band feel of some songs, not one track on Not the Same runs longer than it absolutely has to-a rarity for any jazz album.

Originally published in January/February 2005
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