Campbell, Rae, Dyne: Storm in a Teacup (Rattle Jazz)

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Campbell, Rae, Dyne: No Show Blues
Campbell, Rae, Dyne: Storm in a Teacup (Rattle Jazz)

For an album which swing as much as it edges towards fluid bop, this outing by guitarist Al Campbell, drummer John Rae and bassist Paul Dyne, teases you into it with the opener, Rae's rhythmical stop-start Just Me Just Me, during which you are never quite sure where it is headed.

Campbell's guitar hits a repeated figure, then bends notes while Dyne (presumably) scratches his strings before establishing a quiet walking pace. And then the melody emerges again just in time to tickle you before it comes to what, on repeat plays, is a logical conclusion.

You know you are in for fun and a good time as well as being challenged, although what follows in Campbell's No Show Blues is where they swing along and Rae conjures up the spirit of Joe Morello on Take Five with a taut, slippery solo over Dyne's solid, melodic and supportive backdrop.

That sense of rhythmic playfulness is evident throughout (they hit an intuitive peak on Dyne's There Wont), Rae gets a brief solo spot with the appropriately titled Hands On at the album's midpoint and Suspended Light which follows is -- as the title also suggests -- a more weightless and quiet affair where there is a keen dialogue between Dyne and Rae while Campbell's skittering and liquid playing veers between delicacy and muscularity in a fine balancing act.

That slightly more assertive style also comes through in Milton's (Many) Words which however doesn't quite take off as it might have. Just as you feel they have warmed to it and are ready to dig deep and hard, it pulls back into a fairly standard swing style.

However Campbell grasps the melancholy in Irving Berlin's White Christmas in a short, slow treatment.

Recorded at the New Zealand School of Music in Wellington, this is an accomplished album which ultimately offers fewer and smaller surprises than that enticing opener suggests, and if it pulls back from the edge more often than some might like, that takes nothing away from its coherence, charms and almost psychic understanding these three players have.

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