Tim Ray Trio: Fire & Rain

American pianist puts an individual stamp on tunes he admires, playing in company with bassist John Lockwood and drummer Mark Walker

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Boston-based pianist Tim Ray is a highly respected figure in the US, having collaborated with many eminent musicians. A talented pianist whose flexible approach and amalgamation of styles is reflected in this album, he tips his hat to pianists and composers he admires (as he did on his 2016 release Windows). The tunes are readily recognisable, but the melodies and themes are not slavishly followed, as he puts an individual stamp on the tunes.

Numbers by Monk, Jarrett, Carla Bley, Oscar Peterson and an excellent cover of Oliver Nelson’s Stolen Moments are here, whilst fellow New Englander Dave McKenna’s Theodore The Thumper (after baseball star Ted Williams?) has a slight Horace Silver feel at times. The melody of Fire And Rain is explored by the trio, together and individually, resetting James Taylor’s famous song with force, motion and tenderness, John Lockwood’s bass asserting itself before the mid-track direction changes. A piano motif used by Ray is surely a nod to Russ Freeman (The Isolated Pawn).

Some of the trio’s self-penned material is also included and inevitably, comparisons can be made between these and the familiar compositions, but the former stand up well. Lockwood’s The Meeting is exactly that: the hymn-like introduction segueing into a South African rhythm, upbeat and optimistic.

Ray’s Impro#1 incorporates a greater degree of improvisation, and it would be good to hear this side of his playing more, but it’s Moon In The Sea, by drummer Mark Walker, which took my notice, an attractive waltz full of fluctuations and variations. Walker is also prominent on the lesser-known Jobim number, Mojave, as he propels it over a strong undercurrent of bass and drums vamping.

An excellent introduction for those unfamiliar with the work of Ray and an indication of why saxophonist Greg Abate holds this trio in such high regard.

Discography
Bye-Ya; Stolen Moments; NO Worries; The Meeting: The Jbug And The Kman; Mojave; Theodore The Thumper; Fire And Rain; Lawns; Moon In The Sea; Improv #1 (For Chick); Nighttime; The Windup; Fire And Rain (radio edit) (75.07)
Ray (p, kyb); John Lockwood (b, elb); Mark Walker (d, pc). Boston, Mass. February 2022.
Whaling City Sound WCS137