Oscar Perez - Piano
Kuriko Tsugawa - Bass
Brian Woodruff - Drums
The OKB Trio takes its nomenclature from the initial letter of the
first names of each group member. They first got together when
drummer Brian Woodruff was responsible, each week, for the musical
input for the Blackbird Bar/Restaurant in Queens, New York City. On
one such occasion, in June 2010, pianist Oscar Perez and bassist
Kuriko Tsugawa were invited along and there was an immediate
rapport between the three of them, which led to the formation of
the trio. Oscar Perez is a native of Queens, whose influences
include Cuban folk music and gospel. His previous trio album, with
different personnel, Prepare A Place For Me, was released
in 2015 and showcased his emerging talent. Kuriko Tsugawa who is
Tokyo-born, obtained a scholarship to Berklee College and, after a
period in the Boston area, she moved to New York City about twelve
years ago. The artwork for the album was by Kuriko's husband,
Daisuke Abe, himself a jazz guitarist. As well as being an
experienced drummer and a composer, Brian Woodruff produced the CD.
The reason for the unusual title of the disc is the group's avowed
intention to put the 'ing' back into 'swing' (ouch!).
The album is an eclectic mix of material written variously by trio
members (two tracks each), or by blues/R&B artistes (a further
couple), plus two standards and a Latin number. The overall
standard of performance is high but the Robert Higginbottom (aka
'Tommy Tucker') composition Hi-Heel Sneakers is especially
appealing. It is a lively offering, blessed with a catchy melody,
tinged with the blues, in which all the musicians give a good
account of themselves. Tristeza is a stylish samba, where
Perez plays with panache and proves to be a triumph for the trio as
a whole. Throughout the CD, the accomplished bassist Tsugawa is
afforded ample solo time, and Woodruff is dependably skilled on
drums and percussion. Of the two standards, I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter comes
out rather better than the bop-ish I Remember You. The
former track is not only longer but presents more scope for Perez
to demonstrate his virtuosity, as soloist and accompanist. Milena, a Tsugawa original, is a gentle, romantic piece,
intricate at times but a fine vehicle for the group. March 3rd, also by the bassist, has another intriguing
theme, touched with melancholy and played with assurance.
Woodruff's Pirquette En Dedans swings sweetly and contains
some delicate brushwork from the composer and dreamy keyboard work.
The opening track, The Welcome Song begins slowly then
picks up pace and becomes more emphatic. The empathy between group
members is palpable. I was less convinced by El Padrino
and Safe Passage, though both have their moments.
This album is marked by a generosity of spirit and a willingness to
share the spotlight. It is an enjoyable journey through quite
diverse material, united, however, by the quality of the musicians.
Lovers of jazz piano trios will find it well worth their