Drummer, composer, bandleader, and all around creative musician, Charles Rumback performs in many varied and disparate musical settings from deep inside the jazz tradition to the periphery of its outer rings on his third album Threes. Rumback always maintains his characteristic sound and personal language, from the blurry fringes of rock to backing the most plaintive singer-songwriters, with a musical voice that is instantly recognizable.

In 2016, Rumback created an album that made good on its title’s promise of new beginnings with his acclaimed quintet album, In The New Year. The album was well received, earning him a spot on “best of” year-end polls and on the stage of the Von Freeman Pavilion at the 38th Annual Chicago Jazz Festival flanked by trumpet luminary Ron Miles and saxophone greats Tony Malaby and Greg Ward. Now, with his resolutions kept and another Chicago winter in the rearview, Rumback finds himself removing layers, and musicians, to reveal the sparse, yet verdant nature of his working trio with his rhythmic foil John Tate on bass, and the elegant, inquisitive piano of Jim Baker. Captured live from a concert at one of Chicago’s most creative venues for new music, Constellation, Threes is a 21st century update on the classic piano trio.

The album comes out swinging with the Rumback’s composition, ”Salt Lines.” An upbeat opening salvo, and the first of three originals on the recording, “Salt Lines” states a hopeful, albeit bittersweet, melody; one that takes its time to resolve, leaving more questions than answers.

The push and pull of free gravity is felt strongest on the album’s centerpiece composite of “Three Story Birdhouse / Right Reasons.” There is plenty of room for the trio to kinetically move together and disrupt one another, with Baker and Tate tangling their lines in knots only to untie them, open them up, and reveal a constellation of notes tracing out nameless, mythic figures.

“Erato” opens slowly to reveal the trio’s wide open harmonic palette and, in particular, Jim Baker’s dynamic and unique pianism. Rumback’s choice to include an Andrew Hill composition reads like a statement of intent, as if to say, “Here’s where we’re coming from.” Although he’s Kansas born and raised, Rumback has long called Chicago home. Covering a Chicago native makes complete sense. But, where is it going?

The albums book end, “Too Toney” is where. The song is a fine example of the drummer’s compositional knack towards the patient and reflective with a gravitational pull into the free; a dark, impressionistic waltz that takes form as if it is still in the darkroom, developing before the listener’s ears, just to shape shift again, out of reach. Rumback’s trio make no mystical attempts at soothsaying, but rather set their sights on the horizon line of the great lake that flanks Chicago to the East. Always looking forward.

Three is the magic number. So says both Bob Dorough and De La Soul. Three is a trio in balance.

Threes is the third album by Charles Rumback as a leader.


Nick Macri – Chicago 2017

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