Trio Pianissimo is decidedly more subdued than Interzone and the Mahavishnu Project, percussionist Gregg Bendian’s other bands. But the name seems to refer less to the group’s volume and more to its instrumentation of piano (Steve Hunt), bass (John Lockwood) and drums. Trio Pianissimo’s second album is grounded in the straightahead traditions of the piano trio, but Bendian’s compositions keep things from sounding too standard.
Change includes three drum solos, all between 60 and 90 seconds, which serve as introductions to the tunes that follow them, thanks to quick segues. Like a call to arms, each one shows how inventive Bendian is when left to his own devices. The punchy “Glancing” offers a punctuated prelude to “Knot Grass,” which boasts a rubbery bass line and a theme reminiscent of Monk. Speaking of that pianist, his rare “Gallop’s Gallop” finds the trio rekindling his humor and energy. The mood continues on “Torrents,” nearly 18 minutes of the trio balancing free conversations with several pianistic motifs.
Yet the inspiration that appears on these last tracks of the album is not always present on the earlier part of Change. The ballad “She Knows” never seems to catch fire. “Sleep & Dream,” where Bendian doubles the melody on glockenspiel, is marred by continual pauses that come every few phrases.