This is the first of their albums and the the last one I’ve heard. That’s because it wasn’t available online until recently and I’ve stopped buying CDs, instead buying digital copies when I actually want to support the artist. (Too often I default to streaming, which doesn’t help them much.)
This feels like the most conservative and least fun of the trio’s albums and I don’t know if that’s because I’m approaching it backwards or if it’s because it’s a different band, both, or something else. But it feels safer to tackle this sacred cow in a such a traditional way. There’s the odd moment where it feels like they might break from tradition, but not too many of them. I don’t know the source material well, outside of “America,” as I’ve only ever seen the movie once and never seen a live performance. But it feels faithful to what I know of it.
I think some of this may come back to Dan Effland being a more traditional guitarist than Dave Miller, but I also haven’t listened to the later trio’s music in a few months so this could just be my faulty memory. I know that live, Mikel Avery is a much more interesting and fun player than Adam Sorensen seems on this record, but I also know that not all of that comes across on the studio recordings with Avery.
And, of course, Policastro is the leader here too, so it could just be that I prefer this group, regardless of personnel, when their material is a little more mixed, a little more interesting. West Side Story is hardly new territory for any small jazz group in the 21st century.
Regardless, I don’t particularly love this. It’s fine, but it feels very much like I could just go into a random jazz club and here some trio playing any one of these tracks. Maybe not quite as well, of course, but in this same vein.
Maybe the bloom is off the rose for me, it has been quite a while since I saw them live. Or the more adventurous later recordings just are actually more fun and adventurous.