The trio of organ, guitar and drums is one of the classic jazz instrumentations. With the organ providing an orchestral array of sounds, the guitar adding its own capacity to produce melody, harmony and rhythm, and the drums holding everything together with a surge of swing, it is an ensemble with remarkably expansive musical potential.
Larry Goldings, who opened a six-night run Tuesday at the Jazz Bakery with guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer Bill Stewart, is one of the rare younger players who has taken on the challenge of the B-3 and managed to invest it with his own creative voice. And that's not a task to be minimized, given the powerful influence that the blues-based efforts of Jimmy Smith have had upon the instrument since it first came to prominence in the mid-'50s.
The Larry Goldings Trio's opening set offered a convincing display of how well Goldings has succeeded--not simply in establishing his individual credentials, but in joining with Bernstein and Stewart to create an organ trio style that builds upon the past while embracing the present. Reaching across boundaries of genre and generation, the group delivered a program of tunes that was as pleasing to organ trio traditionalists as it was to the substantial number of younger listeners in attendance (many there as the result of assignments from school jazz classes).
Originals such as "Going to Meet the Man" and "Back in the Day" simmered with rhythmic energy. "I Should Care," on the other hand, was a study in jazz timbres.
Goldings' organ was the focal point from which the trio's music flowed, a rich collection of sounds (from an instrument that some still associate with skating rink music) occasionally erupting into volcanic bursts of rhythm and texture. Stewart, one of the most subtle but irresistibly swinging drummers on the current jazz scene, drove the ensemble with an ear for detail that added compositional qualities to virtually piece. And Bernstein is one of the rare younger guitarists who have declined to color his music with the sounds and the phrasing of rock. Building from sources such as Jim Hall, Joe Pass and Wes Montgomery, his soloing balanced cool articulateness with inner rhythmic fires.
* The Larry Goldings Trio at the Jazz Bakery, 3233 Helms Ave., Culver City. Tonight through Sunday at 8 and 9:30 p.m. $22. (310) 271-9039.