THE PALOMAR TRIO — The Song in Our Soul (review)

THE PALOMAR TRIO — The Song in Our Soul album cover Album · 2023 · Classic (1920s) Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
The Palomar Trio is an all-star three piece made up of some of the top names in early jazz performance. Dan Levinson on clarinet and saxophone, Mark Shane on piano and Kevin Dorn on drums are all first call performers when it comes to 20s classic jazz and early 30s swing. Dan has worked with Wynton Marsalis, Dick Hyman and Mel Tome, while Mark continues to work with the Smithsonian Jazz Ensemble and the Twyla Tharpe Dance Company, and Kevin has worked with Harry Allen, Ken Peplowski and others. Despite the number of other artists available to these three, they all maintain that their favorite group is with each other in The Palomar Trio, which is why they have kept this group alive for over 20 years. All three point to how much the swing feel is in them and how much they see this in each other, or as Mark says, “There’s a center of deep swing inside of me, which emerges every time I play with Dan and Kevin.”

The band points to various influences, pointing out that the make-up of their trio, sans-bass, was inspired by their favorite tgroup with a similar makeup, Bennie Goodman’s trio with Teddie Wilson and Gene Krupa. They also perform a lot of tunes from Jimmie Noone’s swing band that played nightly in Chicago during the late 20s. Mark likes to point to Earl Hines, Fats Waller and Alex Hill as some of his favorite piano inspirations. For their latest album, “The Song in Our Soul”, the band purposefully left out tunes that have been over recorded and settled on their personal favorites such as the uptempo party flavor of “River, Stay Way from My Door, the sentimental balladry of “Sweetheart of Mine”, the noire blues of “Delta Bound” and the pounding backbeat of “Wake Up Chillun Wake Up” that almost leans towards RnB. The production on the album is kept simple with very little, or none, modern digital candy coating and compression. Sounds like they just used a simple room mic and that is all. Overall the clarinet sounds better in the room than the tenor, which can get a little boomy with the room reverb, but that’s easy to get used to.

There are those that find some of this 20s to 30s music hard to listen to, it seems corny or old fashioned as our ears have become accustomed to a certain heavyness and dreariness centered around the power of the minor third and a big pounding beat. Yes, this music has a different tonality from a different era, and some can’t get past that. A good way to open one’s ears up is to get away from heavy western music and enjoy field recordings from Africa, the Orient, South America or Eastern Europe. Once liberated, our ears now find it much easier to enjoy music from cultures we are not used to. Late 20s jazz had a lot of wit and sass to it, this element in jazz seemed to disappear with the passing of the bebop era. Some artists still come along, Henry Threadgill or Anthony Braxton for example, that still have that early jazz wit.
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