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Ronnie Cuber: Ronnie’s Trio (SteepleChase)

Review of the baritone saxophonist's trio album with Jay Anderson and Adam Nussbaum

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Cover of Ronnie Cuber album Ronnie's Trio
Cover of Ronnie Cuber album Ronnie’s Trio

It’s easy to play standards, but damned difficult to play them well. The problem is one of familiarity: How does one take a tune that’s been played literally a million times and find something fresh in it? Some younger musicians deal with this problem by avoiding the familiar tropes of straight-ahead playing (Tom Rainey’s Obbligato does this extremely well), while their elders often burrow deeper into the music’s harmonic possibilities (Lee Konitz and Keith Jarrett spring to mind here).

Baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber’s solution here is simpler: Get rid of the piano, and use the added space to free things up rhythmically. Obviously, there have been piano-less trios before, but Cuber benefits from the approach both by working up some simple but memorable arrangements and having two tremendously simpatico sidemen in bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Adam Nussbaum.

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