Standards trios, even those featuring revered players, aren’t exactly rare. But few offer the degree of creativity and intuitive interplay demonstrated by pianist Bill Cunliffe, bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta on their debut outing. Here it swings, there it sings, and everywhere Trio showcases the kind of magic that erupts when the right high-level players come together at the right time for an impromptu romp on the right material.
Cunliffe, a journeyman jazzer and Grammy-winning arranger who’s worked with everyone from Frank Sinatra to Freddie Hubbard, has previously crossed paths with Patitucci and Colaiuta on a variety of projects; the bassist and drummer have memorably served together as the rhythm section in a version of Chick Corea’s Akoustic Band.
The three ease into the set with a breezy take on George Shearing’s “Conception,” sparked by Colaiuta’s brisk, snappy intro. It features the first of Patitucci’s many deeply wood-infused solo outings and some back-and-forth between the drummer and the band. Then it’s on to something more relaxed, a multicolored take on romantic ballad “Laura,” the first of three laid-back tunes, followed by “Good Morning Heartache” (begun with an impressionistic unaccompanied turn by Cunliffe) and “Just in Time.”
There are nods here to previous employers and musical heroes, starting with a brash take on Wayne Shorter’s moody “Anna Maria” and continuing with Corea’s familiar, friendly “The One Step” and a speedy, slightly tweaked blitz through Miles’ “Seven Steps to Heaven,” bolstered by Colaiuta’s extended solo. And they bring out all the playful, bluesy quirkiness of Monk’s “We See.” Like everything else here, it’s a keeper.