Bob Washut, a musical product of Northern Iowa University, gathered together two close friends to make a piano trio CD. Of the 11 tunes, seven are Washut compositions. All of his compositions are musical displays of Washut's admiration for specific individuals. Some of those honored are well-known jazz musicians, like Lee Konitz and Rufus Reid, and one song is a tribute to his bass player, Mark Urness. The remaining honorees are individuals who had a positive effect on Washut at some point during his life. The other songs on the play list are by composers whom Washut admires and respects: Alan Broadbent, Andy Razaf (in collaboration with others), and Duke Ellington -- not a bad trio themselves. The final piece on this album is by Urness.
Most of the Washut compositions are introspective and lean toward the melancholy, but there's a bright number thrown in to break the mood, like "Especial-Lee." Although pleasant enough, none of Washut's pieces is a breakthrough or will likely be played by anyone else. They are remindful of the music favored by George Winston on his early Windham Hill albums. The Broadbent "Waiting for Charlie" is included because it has one of Washut's all time favorite blues lines. Washut's interpretations of the two chestnuts on the album, "Stompin' at the Savoy" and "Caravan," display his ability to take an oft-played standard and give it a different but credible read. The uptempo "Stompin'" is done with a quirky meter pattern but not the swing rhythm usually associated with this tune. It also showcases Kevin Hart's percussive skills, whose drum solo is built not on loud, gaudy pyrotechnics, but on an understated, well-constructed set of rhythmic patterns, consistent with the relaxed mood established for this set. "Caravan" is done with a Latin beat and shows off Washut's technical mastery of the keyboard. Urness on bass and Hart again on drums get a good workout on this six-minute, uptempo reading of the Ellington/Tizol masterpiece. The only avant-gardish sounding piece on the set is "Sphere's Mirror," dedicated to drummer Matt Wilson.
Songbook is like so many other CDs -- pleasing music performed by talented musicians -- but not one that is likely to be pulled from the shelf very often.