This is the first JPTrio record with originals. And I think I just like it less than their earlier records. That’s far less of a comment on their originals than it is on how easy it is to like the earlier records, when their material is pretty well known.
There are still a few covers, including their excellent “I’m On Fire” cover, which is the first one they played at the show I saw them at, where I was like “ohhhh, they’re not just going to play standards from musicals.” (There’s even a bit of a reggae break in it, which is pretty cool.) There’s also a Talking Heads cover, though it’s the most obvious choice from that era of their career. It’s still pretty up to their standard. I don’t know Santo & Johnny so I can’t comment on that.
The originals feel fairly typical for the genre. Some of them are pretty traditional feeling. (I will say that they played “Speak Slow(Ly)” when I saw them and it was a bit more out there.)
The playing is excellent, as usual. Miller remains a fun guitarist (though he is more fun in concert). The rhythm section are very strong. Though, much like Miller, Avery is fun to watch in concert, due to the things he does with his sticks and brushes. They are definitely one of those jazz bands that takes a few more risks (both in terms of technique and terms of tonality) on stage than they do on record. That’s fine, but if you’ve seen them live…
The only thing that causes me to rank it lower than the previous two records is that the material is a little less obviously compelling. That’s probably entirely unfair, but I’ve had a rough autumn and I don’t have the mental energy to evaluate their original compositions with any kind of thought right now.