Billy Cobham formed the Art of Three with fellow seasoned artists Kenny Barron and Ron Carter, who had known each other for several decades prior to this 2001 European tour, but had rarely played as a unit. This CD includes excerpts of two concerts, and while the drummer is listed as the leader, this is essentially a meeting of three all-stars with no one player dominating the spotlight. Beginning with a spry "Stella by Starlight," featuring Barron's playful piano, Carter's inventive accompaniment, and Cobham starting on brushes and switching to sticks, the trio sizzles from the very start. Carter's "New Waltz" is a tender tune, suggesting a parent teaching a young child a few basic dance steps in the intimacy of home. Barron's lively "And Then Again" blends a delicious bop line in the style of Bud Powell, with Carter and Cobham fueling his flight, while they also offer a rollicking treatment of Powell's "Bouncing with Bud." The setting of Thelonious Monk's "'Round Midnight" focuses more on the lyricism of the piece than an overly brooding air, as it is often played. It's hard not to think of Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis, or Bill Evans when a jazz group plays "Someday My Prince Will Come," but this trio adds a catchy introduction that combines beauty with a bit of tension before seguing into the familiar waltz tempo of this Disney-associated theme. The group followed up this excellent CD with two more from a tour of Japan in 2003; the obvious chemistry between them merits future reunions as well.
The Art of Three Review
by Ken Dryden