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Inspired by pianoless bands led by the likes of Sonny Rollins and Joshua Redman, A/B Trio has gained a following around its home base of Alberta, Canada. The group received significant airplay for its second disc, 2015’s Out West, which gained from the participation of celebrated Canadian saxophonist Mike Murley. For the band’s third album, saxophonist Dan Davis, bassist Josh McHan and drummer Thom Bennett, joined by Toronto-based trumpeter Kevin Turcotte on five of the disc’s eight tracks, turn in a set of music that’s sonically spare but musically rich, bolstered by hard-driving rhythms, consistently colorful arrangements and fertile improvisations.
After a floaty prelude on the title track, sans trumpet, Davis’ keening alto hopscotches across a sticky groove that gradually intensifies, freeing up space for Bennett’s percussive ministrations. Here, and throughout, the saxophonist’s tone is appealingly light and airy but grounded with a gritty edge. The trio goes it alone again on the pretty, chugging ballad “Leda’s Song” and the aptly titled “Bluesaholic.” The latter opens with McHan stating the smoky, snaking melody, Davis doubling it the second time through, and the bassist and drummer later trading fours.
Adding a second horn, of course, creates potential for greater harmonic depth and richness. Turcotte handily fulfills that promise, starting with the opener “Lenny’s Beat,” its funk-edged groove driving a tune on which the horn players sometimes play in unison and sometimes split into harmony lines. The group mixes it up stylistically, hinting at soul jazz on “Roundabout”; landing on Jobim-ish terrain with “Los Plazos del Patron,” with Turcotte’s line shadowing Davis’s theme; and again engaging in creative games of tag on the spirited closer, “Secondary Opinion.” Trioliloquy, which might remind some listeners of trumpeter Dave Douglas’ work in a similar pianoless lineup, has the makings of a break-out release.— Philip Booth