The 1956 Trio
Essential Jazz Classics, 2006
REVIEW BY: Michael Broyles
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/30/2009
Great albums are not just listened to; they are experienced. I remember the first album I obsessed over as a teenager (Miles Davis’s Kind Of Blue), the album I listened to with that special someone (The Very Best Of Marvin Gaye), and the album that symbolizes that one crazy night with my buddies (The Clash’s London Calling). It had been awhile since I experienced an album in this manner. That is, until I heard pianist Red Garland’s The 1956 Trio.
No doubt, The 1956 Trio is musically impressive. From the sensual “Makin’ Whoopee” to the toe-tapping “What Is This Thing Called Love?,” Garland’s playing is precisely melodic, even when quick and disjointed. His chord choices (“voicings” in jazz lingo) are deeply inventive. Art Taylor’s drumming and Paul Chamber’s bass playing create the perfect backdrop for Garland to showcase his musical abilities. (Please note that Paul Chamber’s solos on The 1956 Trio are just as brilliant as Garland’s.)
Historically, these are important recordings. The union of Chambers and Garland laid the foundation for the Miles Davis Quintet’s famous Prestige recordings of the same year. (Instead of choosing Art Taylor for drums, Davis used Philly Joe Jones, who is featured on “Ahmad’s Blues”). Certainly, the Chambers/Garland sound was essential to the Miles Davis Quintet’s style. Plus, Garland’s version of “If I Were A Bell,” recorded in December of 1956, sounds eerily similar to Davis’ previously recorded version (Relaxin’ With Miles Davis, featuring Chambers and Garland).
While musicality and historical importance are pertinent, this album deserves accolades because of the experience it invokes in its listeners. Right away, I knew this album was something special: at times ferocious, other times sweet, The 1956 Trio balances beauty and ugliness into a perfect musical mix. I immediately was inspired to sit in my back yard while blasting my stereo, drinking whiskey, and smoking cigars. From hence forth, I will always associate The 1956 Trio with the whiskey/cigar experience, and vice versa.
Two songs engaged me in particular. The brooding “Blue Red” takes the listener back to jazz’s brothel and speakeasy days of Jelly Roll Morton and Sidney Bechet. This is Garland’s way of saying “I know where I come from,” and the cathartic value of this song is difficult to match. By contrast, Garland’s version of Charlie Parker’s “Constellation” showcases jazz’s progressive side. It is joyfully experimental, fast, and edgy. It discards convention, with Garland’s lightning quick piano solo fading into Chamber’s sharp, tense bass solo, surprisingly played with a bow. Picture this: I sat under a beautiful summer night sky, enjoying whiskey and cigars, soaking in the full range of emotions this album has to offer: joy, rebellion, melancholy, sensuality…the list is endless.
In conclusion, I want to share this album with the world. I want to tell all my friends and family to listen to it. I want to inform everyone I meet about my experience. So when the night implores you, grab your favorite vice and enjoy an earful of Red Garland’s The 1956 Trio.