Brian Swartz’s new album, Three, features the drumless trio of Swartz on trumpet and flugelhorn, Larry Koonse on guitar, and Darek Oles on bass. In Three, Swartz is paying homage to trumpeter Chet Baker and his trio of the late 70s. Even though Swartz is honoring Baker’s trio he and his group are by no means copying the exact sound of Baker’s group. The trio plays eight standards and four originals by Swartz all with a unique sound and great musical interplay.
There are many differences between Swartz’s trio and Baker’s recordings from the late 70s. First of all, Swartz does not sing. Another difference is that Swartz plays at more relaxed tempos. Even though there are many differences between the two groups, Baker’s influence on Swartz shows up in his playing. Swartz and Baker both have wonderful mellow tones, and both play harmonically intriguing notes. However, as he says in his liner notes, Swartz chooses to play more simple lines. "Rather than filling up more space and being as hot as possible, I wanted to take a step back and make every note count. It came out to be a very personal statement."
Knoose and Oles provide good, stable support for Swartz. Knoose’s comping is rhythmically sound and he does a nice job at filling in the holes. His soloing is lyrical and relaxing. Oles has a well defined sound and plays bass lines that keep a steady pulse going through the group.
The most impressive quality of the group is the interplay between all three musicians. They listen to each other making the group unified which produces a magical sound. An example of this is on the track "A Ghost of a Chance" when Knoose and Swartz are having a guitar and trumpet battle. At the end of the battle when they are playing simultaneously Knoose plays a lick and Swartz plays the lick back.
Three is an admirable homage to the old Chet Baker trio. It is filled with simple but yet melodically intriguing playing and great interplay.