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October 2007

Barney McClure Trio
Spot
OA2 Records

On his home turf, Barney McClure is known (in ascending order) as an author (There Is No Such Thing as a Mistake), politician (he has been mayor of Port Townsend, Wash., and served a term in the Washington state legislature), and one of the Pacific Northwest’s best piano players. It turns out that he is also a fluent practitioner of the Hammond B3. McClure in fact achieves something rare for an organist: He tames and civilizes the B3 beast and gives it airiness and sonic allure.

The guitarist on McClure’s first organ-trio date is Mike Denny, who teaches at the University of Oregon. He was a last-minute replacement on a McClure festival gig in 2006, and they have been together ever since. Like McClure, Denny makes the invention of graceful, logical, swinging ideas sound effortless.

The pair divides the songwriting equally in this program of 12 originals. McClure’s highlights include the title track, a sweet-and-lowdown blues, and the throbbing, sexy “Daydream” (no relation to the Billy Strayhorn piece). Denny also writes gentlemanly versions of greasy blues (“Blues in Da Groove”), but he is capable of ethereal lyricism like “Solemnity.” Over McClure’s background whispers, Denny traces a delicate single-note line, insisting on it quietly, then breaking free and floating away, then returning.

Originally published in October 2007
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