Sign of the Times
The recorded sound of this album is brittle. Everything glares. Robert Perkins’ cymbals sound like glass shattering in an echo chamber. Engineer Jon Rosenberg’s other recordings do not sound strange like this. Perhaps he intentionally created a distorted sonic signature to match Benny Lackner’s hard, edgy band. If so, oddly enough, it mostly works. Sign of the Times is piano trio music not for the faint of heart.
Lackner’s trio will inevitably be compared to The Bad Plus because of its amplitude and repertoire. Indeed, Prince’s title track kicks and twitches and hammers and has more in common with punk culture than jazz as we have known it. “Dresden Blues” has a bent blues form and a nasty stuttering syncopated groove.
But this trio is multi-dimensional. Its raw creative energy and brute force is directed by Lackner’s musical sophistication and imposing technical facility. They can play refined, lyrical (albeit urgent) pieces like “Ballade.” Lackner studied with Brad Mehldau, and on Mal Waldron’s “Soul Eyes” he reminds you of his teacher in the way his ideas spill over yet remain precise and defined. The band runs amok on “How About You,” but strategically, with killer solos from bassist Derek Nievergelt and drummer Robert Perkins.