The Palomar Trio • The Song In Our Soul

Of the numerous Turtle Bay releases this one will especially resonate with TST readers. Not trying to be hip or current, these are men with a heartfelt dedication to the early jazz period and are substantially into careers dedicated to exploring it. Dan Levinson, reeds; Mark Shane, piano; and Kevin Dorn, drums; each have taken inspiration from their counterpart in the Benny Goodman Trio, but they have also taken inspiration from each other over the 25 years sharing a stage in this trio, and even farther back.

That deep mutual respect is what permeates this record. “In his company, playing music felt effortless” Levinson says of starting to perform with Shane. He also calls this group his Desert Island Trio, as in the guys he would take with him to pass time on a lonely beach. For his part Shane says “There is a center of deep swing inside me which emerges every time I play with Dan and Kevin.” Dorn, in his section of the notes, points out all the other trios with this instrumentation that have inspired him beyond Benny Goodman, Teddy Wilson, and Gene Krupa. He lists trios from Bud Freeman, Jess Stacy, and George Wettling to Scott Hamilton with Dave McKenna and Jake Hanna, saying the thing that unites each trio was that at their best they were three men playing as one person. He rightly sees The Palomar Trio the same way, they have a united flow, a unique voice.

Red Wood Coast

In a world where a trio gig can sometimes mean a leader could only afford to call two guys for the lunch hour, The Palomar Trio stands out for being serious about the history and possibilities of just this lineup. They have brought that dedication to trio engagements since 1999, but as far as I can tell have not recorded an album as ths unit until now. As first call musicians with national profiles, each has been involved with a number of important projects, but they always had a fondness for this collaboration that they are very obviously excited to share. Scott Asen, that man behind Turtle Bay Records, should be applauded for giving them the opportunity.

I was expecting something else from the name and album art, something of a later sound with solid roots in Benny but closer to the ’50s small groups. I am not sure why! Dan Levinson is not that guy. His roots go back as deep as they can, to rooftop orchestras of the proto jazz era, a style Kevin Dorn learned to play with one of Dan’s other groups. I guess the photo of the band by Rose Callahan brought to mind a specific press photo of the Benny Goodman Quartet, that, along with the Palomar Ballroom reference of the name left me expecting all Goodman, all the time. Instead they draw from many other sources, Jimmie Noone in particular, and it is an earlier or at least timeless sound that fills the album.

As can be presumed with this line up the playing is excellently tight, bright, and swinging, with the freshness of the cusp period on which they draw. There are layered, even emotional, interactions that reward a deep listen. Levinson plays clarinet on six tracks and tenor saxophone on five. Levinson leads the way certainly, but there are extended periods where he falls back to let Shane and Dorn work some duo magic. As I have said many times that drum piano combo is really all I need for happiness. Lest you think they stray too far from the Palomar, Dorn does get a few punches in a distinctly Krupa style. Shane is remarkable, keeping the swing going while bringing it all together. At no time did I long for a bass to fill out the quartet.

Hot Jazz Jubile

The titles are relatively obscure, and I will leave you to peruse them while you order the record. They intentionally avoided the war horses and the notes give the reasoning for each of eleven tracks, whittled down from a list of 45. Benny is there, but so are Alex Hill, Edmond Hall, Coleman Hawkins, and a host of others that Dan Levinson paints into a picturesque scene of a full after hours party at the Apex Club c. 1928.

While everyone adds a layer of insight on the band and the music in the extensive though not intimidating liner notes, Dan Levinson stands out as a gifted and enjoyable writer. This is hardly poetry but his words flow as smoothly as his clarinet lines. (Note: recruit Dan Levinson to write for TST.)

I do not often find other reviews of the albums I cover, but this album has had its share of adoration on music blogs and forums. The informed fanatics, the full day’s drive for a trio at an art center guys, seem to feel like they’ve struck gold, and they want to tell the world about this album. I agree! You can order directly from Turtle Bay, where you can browse their other offerings, or through Bandcamp in CD, Download, or Vinyl formats.

The Song in Our Soul
The Palomar Trio

Joe Bebco is the Associate Editor of The Syncopated Times and Webmaster of

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