Keystone Trio

Heart Beats

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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos

In a typical program of love songs, you'd expect languid, melancholic, serene, wistful fare. But unlike the George Shearing or Erroll Garner trios, this threesome consists of the brilliant pianist John Hicks mostly tearing it up, bassist George Mraz sounding as soulful and spirited as ever, and Idris Muhammad playing the great jazz drummer. This is ultra-melodic, yet powerful triad interprets many standards of love and regret in their own inimitable ways, with an economy and depth that goes beyond mere mortal interpretation. The production on this recording is impeccable. Hicks is an incredible acoustic piano genius, time and time again, from his facile solo on the upbeat "Speak Low," to his creative, staggered phrasings of loping and pouncing waltz lines during "How Deep Is the Ocean?" Muhammad's rhythmic fervor crackles under the pressure of the bossa "If I Should Lose You," adding a freshness and clarity to this well-worn rhythm. In a lighter, Afro-Cuban mode to the melody of "Dancing in the Dark," he makes the night his rhythmic pulse, and he can swing 'til dawn, as proven on "Speak Low," and on the easier swing tune using brushes for "Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered." Mraz is in his element; his time, and timing, immaculate, and his basso profundo sound unmatched. He plays lengthy, back-to-back solos on the ballads "I Fall in Love Too Easily" and "Lose You," as the art of a craftsman shines through. Hicks adds a two-minute solo ("Stay as Sweet as You Are"), and Freddy Cole sings a sweet, bluesy "It Had to Be You," in the crooner's tradition. You're not going to find a better trio than this one, and even more impressive is that each tune seems to be just the right length, with no excess or filler. Hopefully, they do much more together in the future. Hicks has had some formidable trios in the past. This is one that he can stick with for the ages. Highly recommended.

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