Dave King, Dialing a Different Number

Dave King with Bill Carrothers and Billy PetersonI’ve Been Ringing You (Sunnyside, 2012)

1336DigipakI don’t know if I’m supposed to think of Bill Evans when I listen to Dave King’s I’ll Be Ringing You. I don’t think it’s strictly an Evans-trio tribute. But when I’m deep in the throes of a song like “This Nearly Was Mine,” hearing that gentle piano melody, and the subtle, airy cymbal taps that recall Paul Motian’s wisps of sound, my mind goes straight to Evans.

It’s not as though King is just imitating Motian here. (In fact, if he was, it would be a later-era Motian; Paul swung comparatively hard in that Evans band, even on ballads.) It’s just that pieces of that same wide-open strategy certainly pop up, and when you combine it with that laid-back piano, well …

But no, the trio here isn’t meant to be a clone. King and his trio keep the mood gentle, and King does enter that Motian mode of framing the beat more than actually stating it — but does so in a rougher, more forceful voice than Motian. You hear it in the swingy, brisk brushed-drum opening to “So in Love.” Elsewhere, King packs real attitude behind “People Will Say We’re in Love,” which starts with a free interlude, followed by King accompanying the gently swinging chords with a tumult of snare and cymbal play that doesn’t disrupt the comforting late-night vibe.

So, here’s what’s I think is going on. I’ll Be Ringing You is a love letter to the love-song standards of classic piano trios. It’s a patient album filled with the afterglow of remembering old, good times. The back cover shows a blurred image of a party, and that’s about the right feeling. This isn’t the raucous sound of a party; it’s the overdubbed music on a home-video montage of good times filmed long ago.

I bought the CD sight-unseen, so to speak. King is best known for being the drummer in The Bad Plus, which initially built a name on pop covers and piano bombast, but like his Bad Plus bandmates, he’s got an extensive knowledge and appreciation of jazz. This CD looked different. If it was the same Dave King, it was a chance to hear him in a different setting — which, in fact, it is.

The album was recorded in a church in Minnesota — the state where King once helped start the bubbling and creative indie-jazz group called Happy Apple — and features two north-midwestern compatriots: Bill Carrothers (piano), who apparently hails from the non-mitten-looking part of Michigan, and Billy Peterson (bass), whose long resume in the business includes a chair with the Steve Miller Band, of all things.

At 38 minutes, the CD is a cozy and relatively short trip, a chance to just enjoy the scenery going by.

Sunnyside has a Bandcamp-like interface to let you sample and purchase the album.

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