Sunday, January 16, 2011

Tobias Gebb's Upper West Side Blues

Drummer Tobias Gebb and his piano trio, Trio West, derive their name from being from New York City’s Upper West Side, which is reflected by the title of the trio’s new recording, An Upper West Side Story (Yummy House Records). The trio provided a fresh take to Poinciara, done as a tribute to Ahmad Jamal, with pianist Eldad Zvulun playing a rather deliberate tempo while bassist Neal Miner and Gebb both play at different, faster tempos. Still,  everything holds together. Gebb’s original Brasil Bela, is a light bossa nova, followed Gebb’s “The Barnyard,” opening with some animal effects, on a lively blues burner that features some strong tenor from guest Joel Frahm, but also benefits from the trio’s restraint.

It is followed by a lovely rendition of Billy Strayhorn’s
Star-Crossed Lovers, with nice brush work from Gebb. Saxophonist Frahm guests again on Autumn Serenade, with a light tango feel and a lovely vocal from another guest, Champion Fulton. Neal Hefti’s Cute, was part of Basie’s book in the 1950’s and Zvulun’s restrained, thoughtful piano is quite appropriate to this number, as Miner and Gebb keep it swinging nicely. Gebb rigged up castanets for the marvelous trio rendition of Will ‘O the Wisp, whose melody will be familiar from Miles Davis’ classic orchestral album, Sketches of Spain, while Fulton and Frahm return for a modern take on “What a Little Moonlight Will Do. Fulton does not try to emulate Billie Holiday, rather injecting her own style and then scatting and trade fours with saxophonist Frahm with the trio pushing things along. Two By Two is an original slow ballad with the trio’s members playing off each other.

Seamless tempo shifts is one intriguing aspect of the rendition of Irving Berlin’s
How Deep Is the Ocean, while Gebb’s The Monument marks Frahm’s final appearance here on an intriguing melody that is a tribute to the Upper West Side New York Sailors and Soldiers Monument. A cha cha beat provides a fresh take to Lennon and McCartney’s And I Love Her, and further demonstrates the trio’s reflective invention and marvelous interplay throughout.

Not listed on the album cover or the liner notes is a bonus track (at the end) of animal effects (sounds like some sick geese), “Bird Sounds,” which one can easily skip. “An Upper West Side Story,” is a recording which will get more retellings from my CD player. It is available at cdbaby, amazon as well as their website,

This review originally appeared in the November 2008 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 310) at page 11.

I am not sure of the source of my review copy of this CD, whether recived from Jazz & Blues Report or the artist or a publicisit for the label.

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