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December 2005

String Trio of New York and Oliver Lake
Frozen Ropes
Barking Hoop Recordings

Few things are as attractive as the violin played with a jazz mindset. It's the definitive instrument of European-derived art music, yet its most expressive qualities are often underutilized in that realm. STNY's violinist Rob Thomas possesses the same monster chops and gutbucket sensibility as bandmates bassist John Lindberg, guitarist James Emery and guest saxophonist Oliver Lake. I'd say they strike the perfect balance of intellect and emotion, but that would imply that there's a disconnect between the two. There isn't.

The band's component parts are superb. Emery is a terrific country-blues guitarist who comes out of left field. Lindberg plays bass with percussive intensity and great imagination, and Thomas has absorbed the whole of the jazz tradition. Yet it's the chemistry that makes this music so fine. They play together with the loose precision and barely regulated passion of the best long-running jazz groups. The tunes cover lots of ground, from Lindberg's classically tinged title track to my favorite, Emery's aptly named "Texas Kyoto Blues." Lake may be a guest but you'd never know it. He fits hand-in-glove, and contributes a pair of nice compositions besides. This is a great group, and Frozen Ropes is an excellent album.

Originally published in December 2005
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