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Bill Cunliffe Trio: River Edge, New Jersey

This album marks the recording debut of pianist Bill Cunliffe’s new trio, but nothing about it suggests the tentative approach that often mars maiden studio voyages. The reason for that is plain enough. Cunliffe has recruited two musicians whom he admires and with whom he seems to have a natural rapport: bassist Martin Wind and drummer Tim Horner. As the trio moves through this collection of pop standards and multifaceted original pieces, all smartly arranged and often featuring sharp contrasts, with vibrant chromaticism giving way to knotty syncopation, the performances are as surefooted as they are challenging. Cases in point include the rhythmically tricky Cunliffe-penned opener “Sweet Andy” and the warm reprise of “You and the Night and the Music.”

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