Three Chord Molly
Russo Alberts Trio 'Three Chord Molly' By Andrew Gilbert From the first tune, with it's sassy drum figure, insistently grooving bass line and felicitous Cedar Waltonish melody, the Russo Alberts Trio establishes it's modus operandi: swing fiercely, listen closely, and invest each note with soul. Rather than turning every tune into a blowing vehicle with a string of solos, bassist Don Russo, pianist Don Alberts and drummer Art Lewis have developed a body of smart, unfussy arrangements that depend upon their deep knowledge of each other as musicians. It's the kind of dynamic that can only be attained through years of shared experience on the bandstand, experience gained most recently via a long-running Thursday night gig at Hotel De Anza's Hedley Club in San Jose. But the musicians' ties go much deeper, back to the late 1950s, when they met as aspiring young players on San Francisco's vibrant jazz scene. Playing often as a trio and a rhythm section for hire, Russo, Alberts and Lewis caught the attention of the popular but now obscure West Coast baritone saxophonist Virgil Gonsalves, who recruited the threesome as his band. But with the rise of the San Francisco rock movement in the mid 1960s the players all scattered. The Easy Bay-raised Alberts, the former house pianist at San Francisco's storied after-hours spot Jimbo's Bop City, settled in Portland, Ore. For two decades, where he played regularly with the great singer Nancy King and bass masters David Friesen, Leroy Vinnegar and Glen Moore. Lewis, a Philly Joe Jones protégé who grew up in Alameda, spent several years on the road with vocalese pioneer Jon Hendricks before moving to New York City, where he worked with many of the music's most adventurous improvisers, such as Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Lee Konitz, Sam Rivers, and Andrew Hill, with whom he recorded several albums. San Jose-raised Russo headed east to Detroit, continuing his bass studies while playing with artists like Bubby Hatchet, Marcus Belgrave, Dan Turner, and Leon Hatkins. Alberts, who supplies the trio with a steady flow of original material, was the driving force in reassembling the trio, which released an impressive 2007 CD 'Bad Boys' (Sims Road Music). 'Three Chord Molly' documents the group's evolution, playing with the kind of intensity, intelligence and drive that distinguishes the finest jazz ensembles.