JC Sanford: Imminent Standards Trio, Vol. 2

The trombonist's definition of standard might seem elastic and his chordless trio a little thin, but good musical moments ensue


JC Sanford is a trombonist with a background in big band writing. He studied with Bob Brookmeyer and currently leads his own orchestra, a quartet and two jazz trios. His Imminent Standards Trio was formed in 2001 and recorded volume one in February last year.

The current album, Vol. 2, has the trombonist, now 60, supported by a different, younger rhythm section with Charlie Lincoln on bass and Abinnet Berhanu on drums. The revamped trio takes on what Sanford calls a new series of standards, though some may consider his concept of a standard rather elastic.

Vol. 2 opens with Dexter Gordon’s Fried Bananas. When Gordon recorded this in 1969 he had Barry Harris on piano. Unfortunately, despite best efforts, this rendition of the number by a chordless trio tends to make it sound sparse in comparison.

Sanford’s arrangement of Lee Morgan’s Latin-based composition Ceora comes next, followed by Ornette Coleman’s Lonely Woman. A touch of trombone multiphonics in the latter number provides a little alleviation from the overall lack of harmonic accompaniment.

A second Coleman number, Turnaround, with deft drum soloing from Berhanu, turns out to be the first 12-bar blues recorded by Sanford. Ugly Beauty, Thelonious Monk’s only composed waltz, has great bass soloing from Lincoln. The bassist also shines in Freight Train, a bebop blues written by Tommy Flanagan in 1958 for John Coltrane.

The penultimate and for me best track on Vol. 2 is Sanford’s muted trombone version of Anne Ronell’s 1932 composition, Willow Weep For Me, where Lincoln is again strong on bass. The closing number, Stevie Wonder’s Isn’t She Lovely, is dedicated by Sanford to his daughter.

The members of this trio gel well together and they’re clearly adept instrumentalists. However, the set would have been considerably enriched with the addition of piano or other harmonic instrument adding some variation. Music by single trombone with just bass and drums can sound a little empty at times – it’s probably why the setup is so uncommon.

Fried Bananas; Ceora; Lonely Woman; Turnaround; Ugly Beauty; Freight Trane; Willow Weep For Me; Isn’t She Lovely (49.44)
Sanford (t); Charlie Lincoln (b); Abinnet Berhanu (d). Minnesota, April 2022.
Shifting Paradigm Records