The Kelly Green Trio opens its debut album, Volume One, with an almost 10-minute rendition of the Jerome Kern/Johnny Mercer chestnut “I’m Old-Fashioned” that establishes the opposite premise of the lyric. Subtly reharmonizing the standard, the ensemble sounds anything but out of date, streamlining Kern’s already compressed melody without detracting from the beauty of his ingenious line. It’s a performance that sets a high bar, which Kelly mostly meets through a program full of songs from the first half of the 20th century.
As a pianist, vocalist, arranger, and bandleader, Green maintains a rare balance, interacting with her trio while serving as her own foil. Guided by Evan Hyde’s sure and supple drum work and Alex Tremblay’s bass, the group applies its organically state-of-the-art dynamic to an intriguing array of settings. At more than nine minutes, Harry Warren and Mack Gordon’s 1945 hit “I Wish I Knew” gets an expansive treatment similar to Kern, as the group drills down into the song’s wistful and uncertain mood.
The album’s only original, Green’s topical plaint “Daily Lies,” offers a glimpse of her as a composer with a strong melodic sense and a singer with a good feel for material that fits her well and a sound that can take on shades of early Betty Carter without the gymnastics. The trio tightens up the action with a focused version of “My Ideal” and a galloping romp on Joni Mitchell’s “The Dry Cleaner From Des Moines.” The rousing closer, a Bird-meets-Fats medley of “Marmaduke” and “Honeysuckle Rose,” seems designed to elicit a well-deserved encore. Bring on Volume Two.