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Bert Seager/George Donchev/Nat Mugavero: Freedom of Assembly

Piano trios can be a tricky business: How do you sustain interest in a medium that has seen a plethora of styles and every imaginable permutation? For pianist Bert Seager and his colleagues, bassist George Donchev and drummer Nat Magavero, the answer is to focus on quirky original compositions and improvisations that eschew the obvious, favoring slower tempos and just left-of-center harmonies. The emphasis is on a slightly blues-inflected style that sometimes veers outside, but never strays too far in dynamics and tempo.

Seager approaches his solos with a refined taste: Single notes reign and his almost minimalist attack requires attentive listening to reap the rewards. Seager occupies a sort of netherworld that is neither exactly post-bop nor avant-garde, but instead incorporates a variety of elements in pared-down fashion. The only standard, “I Got It Bad (and That Ain’t Good),” is a fine introduction to Seager’s work, for it offers a basis for comparison with his originals. His seemingly simple slant treats the song as a lazy blues, a cocktail piece given just enough spin to make it his own.

These 11 tracks are not likely to light many fires, but a strange appeal marks this trio as a finely tuned unit that bears attention.

Originally Published