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Steven Bernstein, Marcus Rojas, Kresten Osgood: Tattoos and Mushrooms

Obviously this is an unusual sort of trio: a slide trumpeter (Steven Bernstein), a tuba player (Marcus Rojas), and a drummer who rarely plays the beat (Kresten Osgood). Yes, OK, very interesting. We’re intrigued. The trouble with an album’s worth of this trio’s music is that it often seems to be missing something. (The rest of Sex Mob, perhaps?)

Many of these nine tunes feel unformed, incomplete. Only one of the nine is credited to all three musicians, so we can assume there’s not much free-improv going on here. And in fact several of the tunes are covers. Yet most of the album sounds like a warm-up at sound check. Bernstein squawks, growls and bleats his way through “Hope for Denmark,” but the shtick doesn’t work as well here as it might with some of his other projects, because he is shouldering too much of the load this time.

Only on Monk’s “Thelonious” and Mingus’ “Eastcoasting” does the instrumentation feel natural, perhaps because the guys swing rather than noodle. Not until the closer, Osgood’s “The Beat-Up Blues,” does the trio fulfill its potential with some New Orleans street-style psychedelia. Ah, yes, that’s what the tuba is doing there without a piano.

Originally Published