While the name of the group featured on The Song In Our Soul CD (the Palomar Trio) is a bit anonymous, its members will be quite familiar to readers of the Syncopated Times. Dan Levinson, whether playing clarinet, tenor, or C-melody, and exploring pre-1920 music, hot jazz of the ’20s, or swing, always succeeds at sounding like himself. He comes across as a good-humored and creative improviser of the pre-bop era. While very aware of the historic greats and playing in the early idioms, Levinson has developed an individual voice on each of his instruments. Pianist Mark Shane is often compared to Teddy Wilson, not just because he has mastered the swing style but, like Wilson, his taste is impeccable and he sounds as if he has never played an inappropriate note. Drummer Kevin Dorn, while inspired by Gene Krupa, has a lighter touch and his rhythms are often felt as much as they are heard.
The Song In Our Soul features the three musicians, who have played together in many settings through the years, performing 11 songs. Only “In A Shanty In Old Shanty Town” would be considered a standard while the others are superior obscurities although record collectors will be familiar with “It’s Been So Long,” “The Day You Came Along,” and “River, Stay Way From My Door.” Levinson in the liner notes correctly states that there is no point to recording the umpteenth version of “All Of Me” and “Honeysuckle Rose” when there are so many other worthy and nearly forgotten gems to be revived.
The bassless trio, which has Levinson alternating between tenor and clarinet, is occasionally reminiscent of the trios of Benny Goodman and Bud Freeman. Levinson cites Jimmy Noone’s Apex Club Orchestra as an influence but in reality the musicians display their own musical personalities. On such songs as “Wake Up! Chill’un, Wake Up,” “El Rado Scuffle,” “Roses In December,” and “It’s Been So Long,” the concise solos, close interplay, and swinging ensembles are a constant joy.
A particular treat of this easily recommended set of small-group swing is hearing a relaxed version of “Sweetheart O’ Mine” (the same song as Jelly Roll Morton’s “Froggie Moore”) by the trio, and an added bonus are the informative and lengthy liner notes by Levinson along with shorter pieces from Dorn and Shane.
Palomar Trio • The Song In Our Soul
Turtle Bay Records TBR 22-004