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Music Review: Larry Goldings, Peter Bernstein, Bill Stewart – ‘Ramshackle Serenade’

As organ trios go, the combination of Larry Goldings, just voted the number three organist on the annual Downbeat jazz poll, Peter Bernstein voted number one as the rising star guitarist, and drummer Bill Stewart whose absence from the list is something of a mystery, is just about as good as you could hope to put together. Ramshackle Serenade, the trio’s recently released album, makes it clear, if what you’re looking for is straight-ahead, mainstream jazz played with joyful brilliance, you couldn’t ask for better. These are three fine musicians who have been playing together for years. They play as…

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Summary : Goldings, Bernstein, and Stewart have indeed produced a jewel.

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As organ trios go, the combination of Larry Goldings, just voted the number three organist on the annual Downbeat jazz poll, Peter Bernstein voted number one as the rising star guitarist, and drummer Bill Stewart whose absence from the list is something of a mystery, is just about as good as you could hope to put together. Ramshackle Serenade, the trio’s recently released album, makes it clear, if what you’re looking for is straight-ahead, mainstream jazz played with joyful brilliance, you couldn’t ask for better.

These are three fine musicians who have been playing together for years. They play as though they can read each other’s minds. They are an organic unit of equals. No one stands apart taking a star turn; they know better. The music is the star, and they each play in service to the music. Ramshackle Serenade is an album filled with fine jazz as it should be played.

They open with Goldings’ “Roach,” a tune he had recorded on his solo piano album In My Room, but seems to make a lot more sense with the addition of Stewart’s ramshackle-serenade-089425581creative drum work. A tune titled “Roach” demands a great drummer, and Stewart answers the call. Other Goldings compositions on the program include the album’s title song, in which the emphasis is on the serenade rather than the ramshackle. The original “Mr. Meagles” may refer to a character in Dickens’ Little Dorrit, although there is nothing Victorian about its groove.

“Blue Sway” is a moody Stewart piece, and Bernstein contributes a tuneful “Useless Metaphor.” Both have the trio working in top form. When it comes to classic tunes, they add a Latin vibe with Jobim’s “Luiza.” In what may be the highlight of the album, they produce an interpretation of “Sweet and Lovely”  that is sweet but not cloying, and definitively lovely. The album closes with their elegantly subtle version of the recently deceased Horace Silver’s “Peace.”

In Ramshackle Serenade, Goldings, Bernstein, and Stewart have indeed produced a jewel.

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