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Bruce Barth: Three Things of Beauty

Pianist Bruce Barth and vibraphonist Steve Nelson, who have teamed up in various situations over the years, may never have clicked more winningly than they do on Three Things of Beauty , a quartet date that is Barth’s first non-duo or non-trio album in more than a decade. Ranging from Tyner-esque intensity to Basie-like cool, he is at his most expansive, while Nelson plays with a depth of expression he lacked earlier in his career, and bassist Ben Street and drummer Dana Hall provide sumptuous support. The album is so engaging, it deserves a title upgrade: How about Ten Things of Beauty?

Barth’s title cut reveals his detail-oriented approach as a composer. The song begins as a wistful, gently flowering ballad, but gains speed and power, keyed by Hall’s springy, propulsive strokes and fueled by some of Nelson’s hardest-edged lyrical playing. “The Rushing Hour,” another original, radiates bright expectation through serial changes in time, tempo and tone, building on and shadowed by subtle Afro-Cuban accents.

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