Friday , February 23 2024
On a fizzy mix of traditional jazz (mostly originals) and standards (Gershwin, Cole Porter, Fats Waller), bebop, and classical and romantic piano music by the likes of Mozart, Chopin, and Ravel, the pianist and her trio take enormous joy in finding surprising connections.

Music Review: Laura Dubin Trio – ‘Live at the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival’

laura dubin trio
Laura Dubin

Deep into Disc 1 of their new live double album, jazz pianist Laura Dubin and her trio slip quotes from the American Songbook – “Blue Skies,” “The Way You Look Tonight” and the like – into a boisterous jazz arrangement of the famous opening of Beethoven’s Sonata No. 8 “Pathétique,” the whole thing clocking in at under five minutes. The bulk of the music on this recording, captured live at the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival on July 2, 2016, is “pure” jazz. But that brief classical-crossover eruption captures the spirit of the whole set. For one thing, it embodies the rhythmic charge of the songs, both the many Dubin originals and the covers, all of which have a bubbling, tradition-infused but timeless kind of energy.

In fact, the musicians seem so excited that the rhythm nearly gets away from them at the bass and drums’ first entrance in the “Pathétique.” The three players are all superb musicians with enviable chops and tightness, but the performances have a wonderful loose aura, a feeling of coloring outside the lines. Dubin, her husband and drummer Antonio H. Guerrero, and bassist Kieran Hanlon are playing before a hometown Rochester crowd and their connection to the enthusiastic audience is palpable.

The selections are a fizzy mix of traditional jazz and bebop (mostly originals) and standards (Gershwin, Cole Porter, Fats Waller), and classical and romantic piano music by the likes of Mozart, Chopin, and Ravel. The band busts out its rhythmic chops on the appropriately named “Thunderstorm” and its facility with gentler cadences on “Ode to O.P.” (which I feel pretty sure Oscar Peterson would have liked), both Dubin originals.

The set includes flights of original bop in some of Dubin’s own tunes, such as the jolting “Anxiety” and the boogie-swing of “Something’s Cookin’,” and pastoral inspiration on others, like the (I assume) Bill Evans-inspired “Waltz for Bill,” which flows into a hearty “It’s De-Lovely.” A concise “I Got Rhythm” flows like champagne into a flute.

Dubin, who can channel “O.P.” but also play with the curious angularity of an amped-up Monk, seems to take enormous joy in finding surprising connections. The Bach-inspired “Invention for Nina” slides from delicate to dramatic, ultimately suggesting the deep tones of a church organ. The trio is as much at ease in a bluesy mode (“Kelly Green”) as in the Baroque. They filter Mozart through Louis Prima and a touch of Sousa in their take on the “Rondo alla Turca” from Sonata No. 11.

“Kelly Green” gives Hanlon an opportunity for an inspired arco bass solo; the Latin jazz of “On Fire” sees Guerrero firing away on the drums; and Dubin takes the solo spotlight on a Debussy-Gershwin medley that makes beautiful sense.

Whether this reflects my personal tastes or my discernment, I can’t say (you’ll have to listen for yourself), but I can say that this is my favorite jazz album this year.


About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is Publisher and Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Music, where he covers classical music (old and new) and other genres, and Culture, where he reviews NYC theater. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting at you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. Jon also writes the blog Park Odyssey at where he is on a mission to visit every park in New York City. He has also been a part-time working musician, including as lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado.

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