At its best, the piano trio (with bass and drums) can be one of the most fascinating of all jazz chamber ensembles.
Thursday night at the Loa Club, pianist George Cables, bassist John Heard and drummer Larance Marable gave a virtually flawless seminar in just how effective a properly constructed and maintained jazz piano trio can be.
The trio's interpretation of Gershwin's "Bess, You Is My Woman Now" and "My Man's Gone Now" juxtaposed soaring melodic statements against an almost relentless series of increasingly rhythmic variations. Thelonious Monk's bouncy "I Mean You" quickly shifted gears, with Cables' disjunct piano lines making great Monkian interval leaps, while Heard and Marable surged ahead in mainstream fashion.
Despite Cables' exceptional virtuosity he is a superb ballad player who rarely makes the technical player's mistake of overwhelming the melody. "Over the Rainbow," one of the program's highlight numbers, for example, was performed with a singing tone and a series of delicately articulated, filigree variations.