Subject to Change,
Live at the Landon Gallery
(self-released, 1996)

It's a crime that CDs get released like this. Notice I didn't say "that CDs like this get released." This is a jazz string trio album that should be released by a major company, or at least by an indie label that would give it some promotion so that it gets the attention it deserves. Subject to Change is one terrific group, and Live at the Landon Gallery is a classic jazz album.

The group consists of Todd Reynolds on violin, Stephen Salerno on guitar and Dean Johnson on bass, all of whom, from the evidence of this album, are top-notch and top-niche musicians. Together, they make up a trio that should be nationally known, on the cover of Jazz Times and playing at major venues. And the fact that this live album was recorded five years ago would hopefully indicate that these guys have been honing their ensemble chops for another five years, if they haven't gotten disgusted with the injustices of the music business and broken up by now.

They tackle the classics right out of the box with "Oh, Lady Be Good," the first track. Its classic swing calls up memories of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli at their best, with the addition of a great bass solo and some nice stop-time rhythms as well. Your ear tells you immediately that these are fine musicians, and that impression only gets stronger. A bluesy version of "But Not For Me" is a strong follow-up, gutsy and low-down. By the time the absolutely gorgeous rendition of "My Foolish Heart" comes along, you start wondering where these guys, with their marvelous solos and brilliant ensemble work, have been all your life.

They prove their adventurousness with "Blue Monk," an interpretation that even the legendary Thelonious would have found way out there, with its out-of-tempo sections and wonderfully bizarre voicings that evince a real sense of fun. "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes" is equally interesting, and another nice change of pace, as is Chick Corea's "La Fiesta," which begins with some rhythmic rapping on (I assume) the bass, that leads into a twelve-minute, elegantly played Latin excursion. An equally lengthy version of the standard, "Autumn Leaves," concludes the album. It has a slow build that eventually grows to a near frenzy, then stops dead and starts gently swinging again, as though a brief windstorm has whipped the leaves aloft, then allowed them to drift down once again. It's a stirring display of chops and a dramatic way to end the CD, with a return to its initial Hot Club of France sensibility.

This is, as I said, a classic album, and jazz fans should be made aware of its existence. It is an absolute must for anyone who enjoys jazz guitar and violin, and I highly recommend it to all lovers of great jazz. Buy it, play it for your friends, and spread the gospel. This is too great a group to remain in relative obscurity.

[ by Chet Williamson ]