As you might imagine, reviewing all this high-end audio equipment in the context of maintaining a certain sound of the system can be difficult. This week has been a big period of changes, with a lot of gear coming and going. During times like these, when I’m attempting to gauge the sonic attributes of each piece, it’s best to stick with just one or two recordings with which you’re already familiar. This is when Coming Down Roses from the Billy Test Trio made its auspicious debut.
I will elaborate. I went through a week where each day marked a specific change in the system. On the Technics SL-1200G’s platter sat the first album from the MoFi remaster of Dire Strait’s Love Over Gold–yes, we’re talking about “Telegraph Road” and “Private Investigations,” two very familiar demo tracks for me. On the CD player was…wait, what was that last CD we listened to? The jazz trio? That was really nice. Let’s just use that. I didn’t even know what was playing–the Billy Test Trio was just the next CD in the review pile. But wow, did we become close friends over the next few days.
It’s pretty simple with this one. This is a jazz piano trio, and it’s a great-sounding recording. You don’t need a lot more than this, you really don’t, and then again the Billy Test Trio also has some of those desirable hidden layers in the music, especially in the romantic and lyrical way Billy Test can channel melodic pianists such as Bill Evans. That’s kind of a superficial comment to make when you’re talking about the pianist in a jazz trio since a lot of musicians still want to be Evans, but Billy Test circumvents that feeling of familiarity. He doesn’t sound like Bill Evans as much as he inspires the same chills when he takes a run up and down the keys or navigates through a complex passage and comes out the other side, unscathed.
Is this the part where I bring up the two other performers on stage and how they contribute to the whole? In this case, bassist Evan Gregor and drummer Ian Froman were already there, on time, waiting for everyone else. This trio cooks, but in a softer way that feels like patience and the utmost respect. And while this is Billy Test’s first album as a leader, and this is obviously the premier recording of the Billy Test Trio, let’s not forget that he composed and arranged most of these tracks, and he’s been around. I know him from the WDR Big Band in Germany, but the simple truth is that Billy Test shines as part of this trio and on his own, but I hope they keep playing together for a long time.