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POPS - Joe Policastro TRIO: CD Review

POPS - Joe Policastro Trio

Joe Policastro – Bass

Dave Miller – Guitar

Mikel Avery – Drums

Andy Brown – Guitar

Andy Pratt – Guitar

Popular music has provided material for many jazz musicians over the years. Some of the beloved standards after all were pop songs of the pre-World War II era. It stands to reason that contemporary charts also can be utilized in the same manner.

Bassist Joe Policastro and his trio have been doing exactly this during their regular tenure at the Chicago venue Pops for Champagne. POPS is Policastro’s second release under his own name and is filled with selections from the usual Joe Policastro Trio repertoire.

Tom Waits’ “Take It With Me” gets a haunting interpretation. Trio’s dramatic refrains usher in Policastro’s darkly hued lyrical solo. Guitarist Dave Miller follows, gracefully embellishing the main motif. As drummer Mikel Avery gently rolls and softly rumbles, Miller and Policastro both take turns adorning the melody with spontaneous flourishes, making the result intimate and hypnotic.

The original tunes remain recognizable throughout the various renditions and the delightful improvisations remain safely close to the main themes. Policastro plays Prince’s “Diamonds and Pearls” with amazingly agile, unaccompanied pizzicato lines, while Avery’s crashing cymbals and Miller’s strums punctuate the opening bars. Miller adorns the music with charming and elegant phrases over Policastro’s thumping bass and Avery’s galloping beats.

Two guests appear on a few of the tracks. Guitarist Andy Brown brings his signature sound to soul artist Billy Paul’s “Me and Mrs. Jones.” He improvises with reserved passion and intense yearning, letting loose bluesy fervor and a cascade of shimmering chords. Another guitarist, Andy Pratt, showcases his reverberating tone on the Pixies’ “Wave of Mutilation.” Avery’s expectant thuds and Pratt’s notes set an intriguing ambience. Pratt then tastefully reconstructs the piece with his deeply emotive monologue. Policastro takes a turn in the spotlight with a warm and melancholic reading of this rock classic.

POPS is a tribute to Policastro’s favorite musicians from across many styles. This suave and enjoyable album should have wide appeal among both jazz fans and listeners of other genres.

—Hrayr Attarian

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