Pianist-vocalist Dena DeRose and drummer Matt Wilson have been making beautiful music together for more than a decade and a half, nearly the entirety of her recording career. Their sublime rapport was, some nine years ago, expanded and intensified with the addition of bassist Martin Wind. Across four previous albums, they’ve recorded only one-2008’s Live at Jazz Standard, Volume 2-without the addition of an illustrious guest or two. For United they welcome trumpeter Ingrid Jensen and guitarist Peter Bernstein, each enhancing two of the album’s nine tracks.
The title is surely in reference to the core trio’s finely honed tightness, not the dichotomous playlist, where upbeat and romantic themes alternate with darker sentiments. Wilson and Jensen take center stage on the opening title track, DeRose adding brief, buoyant lyrics to the Wayne Shorter composition. Though their muscular faceoff is densely dynamic, it overwhelms DeRose’s vocal, which feels uncharacteristically strained. Balance is righted thereafter, the results uniformly exquisite. On the bluer side of the emotional ledger: Cahn and Van Heusen’s mournfully introspective “Only the Lonely,” Carole King’s wistful “So Far Away” and “Not You Again,” Duncan Lamont’s deftly crafted portrait of a lamented lover’s unwanted return. They’re offset by a lightly swung “I’m Glad There Is You,” Cedar Walton’s whirling “Clockwise,” augmented by DeRose’s self-affirming lyric, Wind and DeRose’s delicate “Simple Song of Love” and Horace Silver’s “Peace,” its becalmed majesty escalating to vibrant exaltation.