Manuel Alvarez Trio-Lined with a Groove: a tribute to Ray Brown
Lined with a Groove: a tribute to Ray Brown
Ray Brown’s standing in the jazz world is that of one of the most inspirational double bass players of all time. He found fame in the 1950s as one third of the Oscar Peterson trio, in which he defined the role of the bassist in that musical configuration for future generations. He subsequently went on to become one of the most recorded musicians in music history, backing a range of diverse (and glittering) artists including Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington and James Brown. Any attempt to try and fill such shoes requires not just pluck but also considerable skill if you want to avoid the embarrassment of pale imitation. Suffice to say, Manuel Alvarez pulls this off with aplomb.
Alvarez re-creates the environment in which Brown always sounded at his best, that of the piano trio. He surrounds himself with the highly talented team of Gerard Nieto on piano and Jean Pierre Derouard on drums. Their playing neatly compliments Alvarez’s airy dexterity as he skips across the fingerboard.The joyous ‘Things ain’t what they used to be’ and ‘You Look Good to me’ show that he is more than just a master of technique, but he also has a lightness of touch that is the equal of Brown’s own.
His arranging skills even manage to breathe fresh life into that hoary old standard Henry Mancini standard, ‘Days of Wine and Roses’. There’s a playfulness to his rendition of ‘Bam Bam Bam’ and the trio capture a lazy New Orleans drawl to his pretty playing on their rendition of the Nat King Cole classic ‘Mona Lisa’.This is a lovely, lively album, foregrounding a truly skilled player, and is a worthy addition to the piano trio canon. I haven’t heard a bassist whose playing has made me smile so much as Alvarez’s has in a long time. In short, a class album by a classy trio, that’s well worth investigating. 8/10
(c) Richard Scarr