Tobias Gebb / Trio West

An Upper Westside Story

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On their 2006 recording, Trio West Plays Holiday Songs, this New York City-based unit was simply billed as Trio West. But after recording An Upper West Side Story in 2007, the hard bop threesome was billed as Tobias Gebb & Trio West -- which is appropriate considering that Gebb is the group's founder and wears more than one hat on this album. In addition to playing the drums and composing four of the songs, Gebb produced An Upper West Side Story and handled all of the arrangements. Pianist Eldad Zvulun and bassist Neal Miner also do their part to make An Upper West Side Story a creative success, but Gebb is clearly the one in the driver's seat -- and this 56-minute disc always reflects his arranger/producer mentality. Casual jam sessions can be a lot of fun, but that isn't what Gebb is going for on An Upper West Side Story; as improvisatory as Trio West's performances are, they are also focused. Gebb and his colleagues bring a definite sense of purpose to this album whether they are turning their attention to the Beatles' "And I Love Her," Billy Strayhorn's "Star-Crossed Lovers," Neal Hefti's "Cute," or Gebb's own compositions (which range from the Brazilian-flavored "Brasil Bela" to the exuberant "The Barnyard"). There are two guests on An Upper West Side Story: tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm (who appears on four tracks) and singer Champian Fulton (who is heard on the standard "What a Little Moonlight Can Do"). And even when Gebb, Zvulun, and Miner aren't the only participants, it remains clear that Gebb went into the studio with a real game plan. An Upper West Side Story isn't groundbreaking, but it's a solid and nicely executed follow-up to Trio West Plays Holiday Songs.

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