Adam Birnbaum ‘Three of A Mind’ (Daedalus) 4/5

adam-birnbaumPianist Adam Birnbaum is a rapidly rising star on the New York jazz scene. For this acoustic trio album “Three of a mind” he is joined by two celebrated rhythm section partners, Al Foster (drums) and Doug Weiss (bass). Foster and Weiss have a formidable pedigree, between them having worked with such luminaries as Miles Davis, Marcus Miller, Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson and McCoy Tyner. Over the past decade Birnbaum has performed with veteran masters such as Eddie Gomez and Wynton Marsalis and also worked with well established contemporaries Pedro Giraudo and Marshall Gilkes. On “Three of a mind” Birnbaum, Foster and Weiss complement each other perfectly, sharing an enviable chemistry and understanding which fuses with the ear of the listener. The album opens with “Binary”, a positive statement of intent: This is who we are! This is what we do! Upbeat and adventurous, bright and uplifting, Birnbaum’s compositions are often playful and engaging, and “Dream Waltz” facilitates some well-balanced interplay over an alluring melody. On the bluesy “Thirty Three” you could be forgiven for thinking you were listening to an uncomplicated Brad Mehldau play the blues. By contrast the swinging “Brandyn”, one of Al Foster’s two compositions on the album, dazzles and shimmers with some exciting playing from all three protagonists. The reflective “Rockport Moon” allows a delightful change of pace. A lyrical and melodic ballad, it highlights Birnbaum’s lighter, softer touch. ‘Stutterstop”, a bright and breezy hip little number, gives way to “Kizuna”, an elegant piece punctuated with a gorgeous melody line. “Dream Song No. 1: Huffy Henry” is more ambitious. A darker, moodier tone lifts it above its blues inflected theme. The album closes with “Ooh what you do to me”, a joyous and confident end to a well-balanced, enjoyable album.

“Three of a mind” captures well the essence of the jazz trio. Whilst not too demanding, Birnbaum’s compositions rise above the norm, allowing space and freedom for Foster and Weiss to show their consummate skills without being too overpowering or headstrong. Adam Birnbaum plays with a refreshing intuition throughout the album. With hints of Steve Kuhn, Michel Petruciani and Kenny Baron occasionally working their way in, on this evidence Birnbaum is definitely one to look out for.

Mike Gates