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Keystone Trio: NewKlear Music

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John Hicks, George Mraz and Idris Muhammad certainly make for a cooperative and communicative trio. For their second recording, the trio covers a body of work from one who is much more noted for his Herculean skills as an improviser. Yes, occasionally Sonny Rollins does stand down from Mt. Olympus to take pen to paper and write tunes, just in case your total focus has been on his peerless saxophonic skills. And although obligation dictated at least one Rollins chestnut, “Airegin,” for the most part they concentrate on Sonny’s latter period Milestone songs. Hicks caps it off with the warmth of a “Love Note For Sunny.”

Rollicking, tumbling, restless improviser that he is, John Hicks displays his more modest side here, deeply in service to the music all the same, but perhaps with a more palpable hit of melancholia in his work. Is it the depth of his homage to Rollins, an obvious influence even at the keyboard? The connection between piano, bass and drums is simpatico to be sure, and there is an after-hours, relaxed kind of feel to this date. Not about fireworks, rather sensitivity is the name of this game, all in service to a set of tunes few have seen fit to cover. Perhaps this date will change that.