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Mike Longo Trio: Float Like a Butterfly

Mike Longo’s ambitions for this recording include acknowledging his piano teacher Oscar Peterson and, as described in a press release, conducting experiments with “polyrhythmic time progression where you get several meters at once.” He went into the studio four times with his trio (bassist Paul West, drummer Jimmy Wormworth) before he got any takes he could keep.

The mission appears to be arduous, even academic, but the music sounds like spontaneous, instinctive celebration. Familiar standards like “Dancing in the Dark” and “It Could Happen to You” have a new, exhilarating throb and glide. Jazz pieces written for horns (Shorter’s “Witch Hunt,” Hubbard’s “Blue Spirits,” Onaje Allan Gumbs’ “Everytime I See You”) sound orchestral in their rhythmically complex piano-trio versions. Yet Longo’s band can make improvising over tricky 5/4 bars lilting. Gumbs’ rarely covered classic receives its most elegant interpretation since the composer played it with the Woody Shaw Concert Ensemble.

“Laura” is the only ballad but is still angular and intense. “Tenderly” is Longo’s explicit tribute to Peterson, but with a personalized hard groove. On “Evidence” it is easiest to hear what Longo is trying for rhythmically. The accents are as irregular as Monk’s but in different places, and the layers of metrical juxtapositions all swing, synergistically.

The recorded sound by engineer Manfred Knoop boasts dynamics to snap your head back, and vivid clarity.

Originally Published