Tuesday, September 16, 2014


The Steve Koven Trio
Bungalow Records
4.5 out of 5 Stars

One of the most classic institutions in the history of jazz is the art of the jazz piano trio.   Off the top of my head there is piano trios led by Nat King Cole, Oscar Peterson, Ahmad Jamal, Red Garland, Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, and Brad Mehldau to name a few.   Through these artists they brought longevity, innovation, creativity, popularity, and group interplay into their groups, while creating music that is timeless and rewarding.

In this varied list of trios led by pianists, you can now add a fellow Canadian into this illustrious mix of holding and engendering a trio for now 20 years.    The trio I am referring to is the Steve Koven Trio led by Steve on piano and compositions, bassist Rob Clutton, and drummer Anthony Michelli.

In this deluxe CD/DVD, Steve Koven presents 10 well-crafted straight-ahead compositions that is ripe for radio play while engendering creativity, swing, rhythm and soul at the same time.   From the get go, check out the opener “Cervantino”, with its electric Latin montunos and percussive rhythms that highlight the track.   There is also the swinging bebop of “Left or Right” which could have been rightfully placed in a 1950’s jazz record; the gospel/folk leanings of “This Time Next Year” that echoes one of Steve’s main influences Keith Jarrett; the St. Thomas flavoured composition “Bongo Bob”; the R&B drenched soul of “Mrs. Sarnicky”; and the classically influenced closer of the set, “Artists”, echoing the recent flavours of pianist Brad Mehldau.  

The DVD is a 25-minute documentary that illustrates the history of the trio, which started in an Ethiopian Restaurant in Toronto in which the band netted $5 each to playing in festivals and concerts halls all across Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean.    Like greats such as Oscar Peterson, Dave Brubeck, Louis Armstrong, and Keith Jarrett, Steve Koven is more than just a well-oiled pianist, composer, educator and improviser.   He plays an effective role representing the new directions of Canadian jazz to a whole wide world without the need of leaving his own backyard and into newer greener pastures.    For that alone, not only he has my utmost adoration, but my utmost honour and respect for celebrating and supporting the rich culture of Canadian arts.

What I also appreciated about this CD is that there is a lot of richness and depth in his compositions despite his tunes ranging from 3 to nearly 5 minutes.    As Shakespeare said it plainly in one of his plays, “Brevity is the soul of wit”, and through that alone Steve has achieved a whole lot and more through this brisk CD.

“20” is a fitting and wonderful celebration for Steve, Rob and Anthony that strives for artistic quality and exploration while sounding fresh and accessible at the same time.    Here’s to another 20 years and counting for one of the most important Canadian piano trios to grace the international stage.


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