If this is McCormack reassessing his playing and looking to further his trio then the future does indeed look bright.

Ubuntu Music UBU0123

Andrew McCormack (piano); Joe Downard (bass); Rod Youngs (drums)

Recorded 30th & 31st March 2022

Andrew McCormack has not been a prolific recording artist, but he has been extremely consistent in the quality of his recordings, and all show a desire to progress and take his music to the next level.

He always has a number of projects on the go, with his Prog-Jazz outfit graviton, solo piano performances and his long standing gig with the Kyle Eastwood Band. And of course, his trio which get to here on this album of new compositions, with a couple of old favourites for good measure.

As with many musicians of late, McCormack used the time spent at home during the pandemic to work on his playing and composing and has presented the fruits of his labour in a format that he has said that he feels most at home, the piano trio.

His new group sounds well played in, and now with restrictions lifted and the opportunity to perform live now more readily available, the pianist is looking to be out on the road as much as possible. And why not when you have a trio as good as this one?

Drummer Rod Youngs is a long time associate with the two musicians having shared many a bandstand in differing combinations, while bassist Joe Downard is a recent addition and has immediately made himself at home. With his firm sense of time and harmonic intuition, Downard has quickly proved himself a considerable asset. With the new compositions from McCormack we get a snapshot or diary of the last few years from the pianist’s perception.

The opening ‘Brooklyn Memoir’ harks back to the three years McCormack spent in New York honing his craft, and his fleeting but inventive take on ‘Confirmation’ reaffirms his roots and affiliation with bebop. This acknowledgement of the tradition is again heard on a spritely run through Thelonious Monk’s ‘Work’ with some fine support from Downard and Youngs.

Topical of the time are the pianists take on ‘Fake News’, something all too prevalent at the time of Donald Trump’s presidency and a sign of troubling times. Nothing fake about the playing on this track (or any other for that matter) as the trio give a solid and swinging performance.

The poignant and moving ‘Prayer For Atonement’ is a piece written after the senseless and tragic killing of George Floyd. The pianist is beautifully expansive with carefully lines that flow effortlessly and lyrically, and Downard’s playing is exemplary showing why any bandleader would want the bassist in their band. Youngs is with them every step of the way, driving the performance without ever over playing.

Other highlights of this ultimately uplifting album can be heard in a reading of Sting’s lovely tune ‘Fragile’, and in McCormack’s ballads ‘Somebody Else’s Song’ and the optimistic ‘Better To Have Loved’.

Just to round things of, McCormack gets in a couple of solo piano offerings with ‘Dear Old Stockholm’, and the delightfully memorable ‘Cherry Blossom’. If this is McCormack reassessing his playing and looking to further his trio then the future does indeed look bright.

Reviewed by Nick Lea