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Right Way Down by Ethan Winogrand Trio

Piano dominates most piano trios. (Maybe that's why they don't call it a drum or bass trio, eh?) Thing is, this group is just called "a trio." Although the piano does carry most of the melody line, the blend and sound levels make the three instruments as much equals as in any trio I've heard. It's like a single complex instrument that demands, and deserves, attention to all three musical strands.

Leader Ethan Winogrand, has covered a lot of territory, both musical and geographic. In his teens he was a rock drummer. He came to jazz via the fusion group High Tide. His trio here is mainstream.

Born in New York City, Winogrand toured the Northeast early in his professional career and later Europe for eight years. Then it was back to New York for recordings and club dates with many jazz artists including Carla Bley in her Very Big Band. (Though Winogrand isn't on it, if you like big bands don't miss her album Appearing Nightly.) Now the drummer lives with his wife near her hometown in Spain, which explains the other musicians on this release, and the sometimes Spanish vibe.

"Coming on Strong" has a gritty shuffle beat. After stating the melody, De Miguel picks out a solo, much of it with an almost Basie-like economy. The left hand supports with staccato chords that are as much rhythmic as harmonic. The bass at first goes its own melodic way, and then switches to steady walking until its own brief solo, mostly in the higher register. Winogrand uses sticks and keeps relentless time on a cymbal all the way, accenting with snare and bass drums.

He switches to brushes for the sensuous and mildly mysterious "Good 'n Ripe." The tune and De Miguel's solo have an Iberian tinge. Piano and bass together take the melody in a wonderful tandem. A piano solo follows. Bass and piano return to the melody before supporting a few bars on snare to take it home.

Winogrand plays with more restraint than many of today's jazz drummers. His time is clean and persistent. Cymbal, snare and bass accents fit and encourage rather than hog attention. The tunes are by Winogrand except for "Pee Wee" by drummer Tony Williams. Showing their percussionist origins, they are about rhythms and rhythmic accents as much as melody and pianist Jacobo De Miguel plays them that way. Even soloing he often sounds more like part of an accompanying rhythm section than the lead.

The album never startles or flies off into spasms of creativity. But it is deeply satisfying and rewards close listening. The tunes are near hypnotic thanks to Winogrand's rhythmic intensity and the flawless interplay of piano, bass and drums. Highly recommended.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Ethan Winogrand Trio
  • CD Title: Right Way Down
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2010
  • Record Label: Self Published
  • Tracks: Coming on Strong, Good 'n Ripe, Dragnet,Slip Knot, Right Way Down, Five in Hand, Slowpoke, Pee Wee, Rabbit Runs, If It Ain't Broke
  • Musicians: Jacobo De Miguel (piano), Carlos Barretto (bass), Ethan Winogrand (drums)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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