Among newer releases on Smalls Live in its Live at Smalls series is one by the Bruce Barth Trio. Pianist Barth is accompanied by the bass of Vincente Archer and drummer Rudy Royston on location recordings from the Greenwich Village club that captured a late September 2010 performance. I am most familiar with Barth from his work on Terrell Stafford’s excellent celebration of the music of Billy Strayhorn, This Side of Strayhorn, (MaxJazz), but this is first album under his name I have heard. He has a pretty extensive resume including a stint with Terence Blanchard and a number of prior recordings as a leader.
With the exception of a rendition of Good Morning Heartache, the trio performs Barth's original compositions. The opening “Oh Yes I Will is not typical of several performances in that it opens in a pensive, impressionistic manner before Barth’s playing builds heat while Royston pushing things along and Archer provides a steady anchor. Sunday opens somewhat in a similar fashion as it develops in a similar fashion before the arpeggios are contrasted with block chords before it closes more pensively. There is a lovely ballad Yama and the lovely version of Good Morning Heartache, finds Barth playing with great restraint and in a spare fashion while Royston provides understated percussive support.
This listener’s favorite track might be Almost Blues. This is a terrific, spirited hard bop blues with a Monkish tinge with some driving playing with Royston’s rhythmic accents pushing it along before he solos and then trades fours with Barth. Archer gets to solo on Peaceful Place and the spirited Wilsonian Alto which has a bit of latin spice in the performance. Afternoon in LLeida, is a lovely performance mixing in Barth’s manner of setting a mood while providing contrast with some bluesy passages.
As usual with SmallsLive recordings, this is handsomely produced and the sound is quite fine. Barth’s crisp, yet feathery touch is complemented by his sideman for a thoughtful and lively recording. I will be checking out some of his past catalog. Its available from SmallsLive directly or other vendors.
I purchased this CD. Here is Bruce Barth performing Wilsonian Alto from 1 2004 performance with a different trio.