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Three Equals One

At first this sounds like John Moulder's session. He carries the melody and rides the slalom-like harmonic changes with unusual sureness and grace. But no, Larry Gray's the leader, wrote the tunes, skis the drifts with equal assurance, and has his fair share of solo time. Charles Heath completes the trio with the assertive, yet supportive style of many of today's best drummers.

Gray's writing has originality and depth. The surfaces appeal immediately, but there's a lot going on underneath, so the album gets better with each listen. "King Vita-man" is a burner with a shorter than usual melodic structure and unusual key changes. It begins as a standard guitar-trio arrangement while Moulder solos. (Pat Metheny comes to mind.) The meaning of the album's title becomes more apparent when it's Gray's turn. He's in the spotlight, but supported by well-placed guitar chords and subtle drumming. I've seldom heard a trio working together any better.

The gentle "Waltz for Lena" (Gray's wife) is in a minor key. After a soft drum-roll intro, Moulder again states the melody, and this time Gray solos first. Heath remains active, but with a light touch, even though he's still using sticks rather than brushes.

Brushes are evident in "Be-bop Blues (for Barry Harris)," and as you'd guess from the title, it's a nod to the influential pianist's style. A loose, bluesy time is had by all.

"Karolyn" is another pretty tune dedicated to Gray's wife (nicknamed Lena). "Soffi's Lullaby," written for the couple's daughter, completes the triad of family-influenced ballads. To reinforce the mood, Moulder goes acoustic with a lovely harp-like tone, and Gray switches to bow for an extended heart-felt solo.

"Triceratops" is the only in-your-face track. It provides a good workout for Heath, and again Gray's tone changes, this time to match a harsh, primitive vibe. You can almost see the chunky dinosaur tromping through the primeval landscape.

This is a solid album by three musicians with extensive and broad resumes, and they've indeed been together long enough to make "three equal one." Admiringly recommended.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Larry Gray Trio
  • CD Title: Three Equals One
  • Genre: Contemporary Jazz / Modern
  • Year Released: 2011
  • Record Label: Chicago Sessions LTD
  • Tracks: King Vita-man, Waltz for Lena, Beyond, Be-bop Blues (for Barry Harris), Karolyn, Blank State, Hail to the Chief (for Wilbur Campbell), Triceratops, Soffi's Lullaby, Mysterious
  • Musicians: Larry Gray (double bass), John Moulder (electric and acoustic guitar), Charles Heath (drums)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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