Tommy Flanagan: Sunset and the Mockingbird

This is one of those recordings that defines the art of the piano trio in jazz. Tommy Flanagan’s musical wisdom shines through at every juncture of these performances. For a group that has worked together as long as pianist Flanagan, bassist Peter Washington, and drummer Lewis Nash, live sessions represent a particular treat: in a historic venue such as the Village Vanguard-on Flanagan’s birthday, no less-the likelihood of stellar performances is particularly high. That proves to be the case: Flanagan is in fine form on the eight selections, including two each from Thad Jones and Dizzy Gillespie and three from Tom McIntosh. Gillespie’s “Tin Tin Deo” is a superb illustration of one dimension of the pianist’s complete mastery of the idiom: Flanagan’s interpolations of material from other familiar tunes goes far beyond mere quotation. Whether it’s “Salt Peanuts, “Sonny Moon for Two,” or “‘Round Midnight,” they become part of the fabric of the performance, blurring the line between arrangement and inspired improvisation.