Although there are some songs on Back Nine where the inclusion of a second lead instrument besides guitar would have been nice, the interplay between bassist Tom Warrington, drummer Joe La Barbera and ax-man Larry Koonse is so tight and inviting that most of the time you forget about the absence of reeds, brass or keyboards. Koonse is splendid on ballads, inventive on the blues and faster numbers and repeatedly delivers fleet, supple solos and accompaniment. The Warrington/La Barbera duo add plenty of fire and verve in response, from the late-night sensibility of "My One and Only Love" to the more intense, upbeat feel they exemplify on "Whisper Not," "Nardis" and "Labyrinth." La Barbera occasionally adds some rhythmic energy to the proceedings, while Warrington (who doubles as producer) proves both a steady, frenetic accompanist and occasional star soloist.
The trio fleshes out the compositions while avoiding repetition, excess and tedium. In fact, they sometimes seem to cut it a bit short, as both "Nardis" and "Labyrinth" seem ready to move into another gear as they're fading out. But there are certainly enough solid music and good performances on this CD to give audiences a chance at hearing three accomplished, experienced players enjoying themselves in a setting that's not musically adventurous but is certainly joyous.