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Bob James Trio: Take it From the Top

Now this is what an homage should be. Bob James has included nine of his personal favorites in Take It From the Top (Koch) and has eloquently explained why he chose these pianists: Red Garland, Nat “King” Cole, Glenn Gould (by way of Petula Clark!), Oscar Peterson, Ahmad Jamal, Erroll Garner, Mal Waldron and John Lewis.

No musician is obliged to explain something as subjective as an influence on his style of playing, but James is so damned articulate you’ll probably enjoy his trips down memory lane as much as his highly personal musical interpretations of his choices. To explain the most curious selection-Petula Clark’s “Downtown”-James writes that his favorite classical pianist, Glenn Gould, once expressed a fondness for Clark, and James decided it would be wiser to include “Downtown” than one of the “Goldberg Variations.”

The best trio effort, thanks to James Genus’ bass work and Billy Kilson’s drumming, is “Straighten Up And Fly Right.” James, who sticks with acoustic piano throughout, sparkles on “Poinciana,” “Caravan,” “Tenderly” and, above all, on “Django.”

Originally Published