Post Junk Trio

Piano

On most of the cuts off their new CD, Piano, the members of Post Junk Trio play as if the world is on their very last nerve. On the best of the tracks, that nerve is raw and exposed: "If one more person says one more hurtful or ignorant thing to me, I'm ... gonna ... blow." The key is, they never do, and in the end, it's the power of the unsaid that gives Piano its force.

Post Junk Trio is Ian "Inkx" Herman (drums), David Robbins (baritone sax), and Frank Swart (bass), the survivors of the '90s San Francisco acid jazz group Junk. The band's unique instrumentation -- with the baritone sax providing a more growling, low-down voicing than the more common alto or tenor -- helps bring a distinctive edge to the jangling, often laconic grooves that form the fault line below Piano.The urgent rasp of that horn, in particular, creates a tension between the sudden explosions and the short swirls of melodic loveliness that arise intermittently throughout.

It's with the third cut, the introspective "I Thought She Was Kidding," that Piano's heart is revealed. Swart's ringing guitarlike lines underscore Robbins' slow, wandering melody -- together they paint a gray urban dawn, regret hanging in the air. We get a first glimpse of fury with the opening howl of "Don't Think I Won't," a revealing instant that, while stifled almost immediately, illuminates just briefly the combustion threatening to detonate the session. The trio blows the hardest on "Dead Right," breaking out at a frenetic, blaring pace, before shifting, once again, into a simmer that somehow seems more ominous still.

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Not every cut works. Both "Izzy" and "The Drive Home," for example, feel like ideas that were never properly developed. But overall, Piano is haunting and effective. With the sound down, the session might come across as shimmering background music. Crank the volume, though, and Piano often crackles and sometimes burns. It's just that the fire is below the surface.

 
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