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The Gary Peacock Trio Balances Introspection And Drive In 'Now This'


This is FRESH AIR. Bassist Gary Peacock has been playing in pianist Keith Jarrett's "Standards" trio for 30 years. Peacock also leads a trio of his own, which has a new album out. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says the tunes are good, but the playing is even better.


KEVIN WHITEHEAD, BYLINE: Bassist Gary Peacock, pianist Marc Copland and drummer Joey Baron on Peacock's new trio album "Now This." Making his rep in the 1960s, Peacock played in two great but totally different trios - Bill Evans' reflective one, where the bassist tested the limits a bit, and Albert Ayler's cyclone, where Peacock played some of the wildest bass ever. His bass is still an independent, melodic voice in any band he plays in. "Now This" features some good Peacock tunes, new and old. "Gaia" has a hook as memorable and insistent as a pop song's. That figure repeats even when the baseline mutates.


WHITEHEAD: That melody's lacy delicacy keeps the players in check, keeps the volume level bass-friendly. Joey Baron has played a lot of rollicking drums with John Zorn and others. And he will stir the pot, but he'd rather underplay than kill the mood. His playing here is a master class in varied, efficient, low-key swing. On "Gaia," Baron plays much of his solo with bare hands.


WHITEHEAD: Gary Peacock wrote most of this music, but he picks three tunes by his side men. Joey Baron's "Esprit De Muse" shows how well the players pull together, even where the interplay is loose or where pianist Marc Copland swims against the current. The trio deftly balance introspection and drive, and Joey Baron's a regular Monet with the brushes.


WHITEHEAD: Gary Peacock and pianist Marc Copland go back decades and have the same ear for harmony and melody and rhythmic flow. Copland digs Peacock's old boss Bill Evans, quoting a few signature Evans' chords and keyboard bird calls. But Marc Copland has his own round, clear, keyboard touch and love of clockwork repetitions. And he leaves a lot of room for bass and drums to work around him.


WHITEHEAD: Jazz does love its rich past, but this quiet piano trio doesn't sound much like vintage Bill Evans or vintage anyone else. This collective improvising is more airy, the swinging more elastic. Everything's more open. It's not about nostalgia for back in the day. But one key reason things have changed is the way Gary Peacock exploded the bassist's role all those years ago.

GROSS: Kevin Whitehead writes for Point of Departure and is the author of "Why Jazz?" He reviewed "Now This," the new album by the Gary Peacock Trio on the ECM label. Coming up, Maureen Corrigan has some suggestions for summer reading. This is FRESH AIR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kevin Whitehead is the jazz critic for NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Currently he reviews for The Audio Beat and Point of Departure.
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