Thursday, November 8, 2018

Ken Wild, Tom Rizzo and Susan Krebs' Trio WoRK

This new album comes from an unusual "trio" consisting of guitar (Rizzo), bass (Wild) and vocals (Krebs)--Rizzo himself explains that there's "no dedicated timekeeper," and that has "allowed the three of us to find each other's pulse." I'm sure this isn't a totally unique ensemble, since I'm confident I can find plenty of female vocal recordings where the singer is accompanied by bass and electric guitar. What makes Trio WoRK, as an original venture is Kreb's distinctive voice.

She's described as an actor and theater improviser--her name sounds familiar to me for some reason--so she doesn't have that classic female jazz voice. Instead, she's adept at inflection, of infusing emotions and meaning into every line. Her singing voice is lovely and soothing in a slightly unorthodox way, split between a sultry jazz delivery and a storyteller's knack for keeping the listener engaged. I'm not suggesting she's outside the world of jazz, since she's performed for many years at her "jazz salon," ThemeScene, where she leads the Susan Krebs Chamber Band. But she does straddle two worlds when she sings, and that is what helps to make her distinctive.

While she sounds like the very center of Trio WoRK (note that the name of this trio is a play on the three's initials), she does know how to step back and share the stage with her two cohorts. I've always found bass and guitar duos to be very soothing and relaxing, and Wild and Rizzo know how to counter Krebs' dramatic readings with more than a touch of honey. Rizzo can alternate between electric jazz guitar and an acoustic Flamenco style in a seamless way--differentiating between the two fluid approaches becomes almost an afterthought. Wild, on the other hand, is one of those bassists who is so strong on melody that he's often the one who's defining the themes and carrying them through the song.

All three work together as one, and yet each one plays with the sort of confidence that comes from years of experience. Trio WoRK isn't bound to tradition, even when they're covering standards such as "My Foolish Heart," "I'm So Lonesome" and even "Eleanor Rigby," which turns out to be Rizzo's turn to shine and show off some remarkable technique. It's clear, however, that they've traveled a long way to be able to dance around the edges of jazz and still leave no doubt to their devotion. This is a quiet, gentle jazz album, partially due to the lack of percussion, but at the same time it's exciting because the drama is unvarnished and honest.

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