Given the proliferation of the piano trio on the jazz scene over the years it is important for any trio looking to make a name for itself to develop its own unique voice. In its 10 years as an ensemble, Negroni’s Trio, the father and son combination of pianist Jose Negroni and drummer Nomar Negroni together with a varied cast of bassists, has done just that. Focusing on what the ensemble’s website calls a “combination where jazz, classic lyricism and Afro Latin punches merge,” the trio makes a specialty of finding fresh ways to explore that merged terrain. Indeed, they have managed their exploration well enough that their 2005 sophomore album Piano/Drums/Bass was nominated for a Grammy as the Best Latin Jazz Album.
Now comes On the Way, their seventh album and a celebration of their 10th anniversary. It’s a collection of 10 tunes; eight original compositions by Jose and two covers. Over the years the Negronis have found a formula for success and the new album once again demonstrates that there is no reason to mess around with a good thing. Joined by Josh Allen on acoustic bass, the trio plays alone on five of the tracks. They open the album with the title song (a tune that has a partial melodic phrase that reminds me of “Stormy Weather” every time I hear it), which provides a fair indication of what the trio is all about. Later they do a subtle, almost understated, take on the bombastic Sinatra classic “My Way” that is one of the album’s highlights. “Blue Forest” has an infectious melodic line with some familiar improvisatory phrases from the pianist. “Oak Tree” has some interesting work from Allen as well as Nomar on the drums.
Saxophonist Ed Calle joins them on four original tracks and the collaboration produces some really nice interaction. “Matices,” which my translator tells me means shades or variations, begins with an almost tinkling waltz prelude and turns into a dynamic romp. Check out the version on YouTube. “Dancing with the Bass” is another gem which gives everyone a chance at the spotlight. Calle is also featured on “Expressions,” now on the soprano sax, and “Looking for You,” where he wails once again on the tenor. The album closes with “Retrospection,” Jose’s lyrical collaboration with violinist Frederico Britos. It is an emotionally satisfying ending to an engaging album.
If you like your jazz with an Afro-Latin flavor, Negroni’s Trio is an ensemble you’ll want to hear. On the Way is an album you’ll want to check out.