The release of the Gary Peacock Trio's Now This celebrates Peacock's 80th birthday. Accompanied by pianist Marc Copland and drummer Joey Baron, the bassist explores compositions both familiar and new. His collaborators also contribute a tune each. "Gaia" first appeared on 1995's A Closer View with Ralph Towner. In the intro to this version, Copland uses his instrument's high register to commence a call and response with Peacock; Baron's use of muted cymbals adds a gauzy texture before the waltz tempo and the lyric commence, adding a new dimension. Peacock's relationship with ECM goes back to 1970s Paul Bley. "Moor" is a recorded staple in his catalog -- its roots lie in the 1960s, but it was released by the label as its third album. The difference here is that Copland is less a pointillist than Bley, and his sense of space via elliptical chord voicings in his improvisation makes this tune feel new. "Christa," a new tune, showcases just how canny and lush Peacock is as a melodist. His playing moves off from the lyric statement by Copland and finds its way as actual song. Baron's "Espirit de Muse" features a bass solo in the first minute, before a gently inquiring Copland steps in to find the center as Baron's brushes wash over and through their dialogue, creating a third voice. His elastic sense of time throughout these proceedings never sacrifices groove, warmth, or charm even at his most experimental. When this cut slips into post-bop terrain, his swing is impeccable. Copland's "Noh Blues" employs Eastern modes and Western tonalities in an elegant extension of the blues form. His partners engage with him in active conversation on the margins. The reading of Scott LaFaro's "Gloria's Step" reveals how deep Peacock's sense of harmonic coloration is -- he has played with every pianist from Bill Evans to Keith Jarrett -- and here he provides a sophisticated yet accessible workshop on the intimate interplay between rhythm and lyricism. The set ends with "Requiem," a tune that Peacock has often revisited. This one more closely resembles the original he recorded on 1970's Voices with pianist Masabumi Kikuchi and drummer Masahiko Togashi. The precision in his playing and his unmistakable tone -- which has grown even woodier over the decades -- cover the front line as Copland's knotty chords offer harmonic extension and Baron's use of the backbeat creates force. Now This is not only an excellent portrait of the bassist in winter -- his abilities undiminished -- but also an exercise in the possibilities of the piano trio in the 21st century.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek