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REVIEW | Sam Robinson "Third Time's a Charm" by Jeff Cebulski

Sam Robinson

Third Time's a Charm

Independent Release, 2023

By Jeff Cebulski | ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Throughout the first quarter of this 21st Century, Chicago-area trumpeter and educator Sam Robinson has been gradually building a hard bop/post bop ensemble and getting gigs in the upper Midwest. His recent EP, Third Time’s a Charm, his third recorded release, demonstrates what happens when a group of talented friends becomes a formidable unit based on modern jazz tradition.

The majority of the group’s material involves covers, but some original tunes are emerging; one can hear the influence of “the book” as Robinson seeks to establish his own compositional path. (A good take on what Robinson’s crew brings can be heard on Be With Me: Live at the Eastgate Cafe.)

For example, the band pays tribute to an obvious influence, Horace Silver, in its rendition of “Senor Blues,” surely a staple of any post bop collection. The well-recorded song’s pace here is rendered pretty much like the original, with veteran pianist Jim Holman holding the fort much as Silver did. Robinson’s fiery horn blisters a bright solo before Linard Stroud gets a drum break. Then follows an original, “Da Brain,” which sounds like it was lifted from one of those great Silver albums. Scott Angst raises the specter of Junior Cook with a deeply felt solo, leading to a lyrical statement from trombonist Josh Torrey. Then Robinson provides a tasty, understated portion before bassist Aaron Krings, as part of a notable performance, has a solo moment. (An alternative take of “Da Brain” ends the disc—the soloists seem to be taking a few more chances.)

I have no qualms about these much-alike renditions—it seems like Silver has been left behind a bit in the collective memory, so this was welcome listening.

“Infant Eyes” gets an elongated treatment, a chance for Robinson to feature his balladeering, which sounds like Miles at his best. Holman’s piano solo is exquisite. The production creates space for the musicians, leading to a very pleasant audio experience.

“What’s New” lopes its way toward the finish, with the ensemble crooning together in a largely improvised jam.

The vastly improved production value of this new recording should win new fans for the veteran Robinson and his crew, who can be counted on to provide exemplary modern classic music to its audiences.

Sam Robinson, Third Time’s a Charm. Independent release, 2023 (can be heard currently on Spotify and YouTube)

Sam Robinson, trumpet

Scott Angst- tenor 

Josh Torrey- trombone 

Jim Holman- piano 

Aaron Krings- bass

Linard Stroud- drums 

About Jeff Cebulski

Jeff Cebulski, who lives in Chicago, is a retired English educator (both secondary and collegiate) and longtime jazz aficionado. His career in jazz includes radio programs at two stations in southeast Wisconsin, an online show on Kennesaw State’s (GA) Owl Radio from 2007 until 2015, and review/feature writing for Chicago Jazz Magazine since 2016, including his column "Jazz With Mr. C". He has interviewed many jazz artists, including Joshua Redman, Charles Lloyd, Dave Holland, John Beasley, and Chris Brubeck, as well as several Chicago-based players. Jeff is a member of the Jazz Journalists Association. Contact Jeff at


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