Review by Brad Walseth
If you are anything like me, you occasionally get the urge to hear straight ahead jazz standards played well and without excessive and unnecessary adornment. Maybe not the usual suspects, those worn out melodies of which we have all gotten bored, but rather some of the lesser known, yet equally valuable entries in the Great American Songbook. On "Breathing Space," The Ben Paterson Trio thankfully provides a healthy dose of excellent traditional jazz trio work on a series of underappreciated songs, as well as two fine original compositions.
Pianist Paterson has been performing at the top local Jazz venues since his arrival in the city in 2004 to attend the University of Chicago. He has worked with many of the elite of the local jazz scene and performed at the 2006 Jazz Fest. Perhaps best known as the legendary Von Freeman’s first call piano accompanist, Paterson has shown him self to be an astute student of piano history, calling players like Art Tatum, Bill Evans and Oscar Peterson influential in his playing. His partners in this endeavor are both well known musicians who can be seen on any given night playing somewhere in Chicago. Bassist Jake Vinsel is an NIU grad whose solid swinging style finds him in great demand in the scene, while North Texas grad, drummer Jon Deitmyer seemingly is behind the kit at nearly every club in town. These three young men are extremely talented and play very well together on this warmly recorded release.
Some of the unusual song choices on "Breathing Space" include Benny Golson’s "Whisper Not" (a song that seems to have been rediscovered by a few Jazz artists lately), Gigi Gryce's "Hymn of the Orient" and Scott LaFaro's “Gloria's Step.” The latter is especially apt considering the apparent Bill Evans Trio influence, but then again what piano trio hasn’t been influenced that iconic trinity? Nor do the players attempt to mimic anyone in particular; rather they have absorbed their influences and filtered them through their own subconsciousness, in the end producing their own personal sound and statement. That these young artists are already able to create such strong interplay is a sign of great things to come from these musicians.
When the band kicks confidently into "Whisper" to start things off, the listener will know they are in for a pleasurable experience. Paterson's keyboard sparkles, and hints at flashes of his musical forebears (Evans, Peterson) while Vinsel's bass is thick and dark-toned and his solos simply swing like the dickens. Drummer Deitmyer meanwhile adds a solid and assured touch and an assortment of choice timbres. Finally, the recording by Brain Schwab at Victorian Recording Studios in Barrington, picks up everything in a clear and balanced manner, which allows the listener to feel he is in the same comfortable room as the trio.
There are many highlights on this wonderful little gem of an album. The waltzing "Alice in Wonderland" is a swirling delight, while the tasty original "I Thought You Should Know" shows Paterson taking his group into a bit of a Monk milieu. The challenging "Hymn of the Orient" is given a breakneck workout, with group interplay that makes it seem like they have been playing together for decades, while still maintaining their youthful energy. And the beautiful slow ballad version of "I Wish I Knew" is almost worth the price of admission alone for its shimmering romantic languor.
There is much more to laud about this album, which I am quite enamored of, but I won’t spoil the pleasure of finding out for yourself. However, I will say that "Breathing Space" is a remarkably mature and enjoyable debut that deserves to find a wider audience among fans of Jazz piano trios everywhere.