I’ll tell you why not: because of drummer Mat Marucci, who comes on like Elvin Jones. And stays in that deep trench, palpably rumbling. Mat’s trio is working and sweating.
Marucci is a prize fighter who keeps up the pace and goes the distance. His jabs are never glancing blows; they’re solid punches to the gut—to the essential mids and lower-mids. Even his ride tone—and beat—is a force that works the same frequency range. Some drummers tinkle a lot on cymbals. Marucci gets under the action with a a balanced attack on drums vs cymbals. Sometimes, despite my affection for cymbals, I’m wanting to hear and feel more drums. And Marucci is all over them, sometimes shadowing Webb, often kicking his butt. Webb never seems to be at a loss for words, always responding instantly with some phrase that’s gonna move it along. And that’s good because, unless it’s my monitoring system (B & W bookshelf studio monitors, NAD 3020), bassist Rob Lemas is mixed a little too far to the rear. What else is new when recording an upright live? Steve Swallow made a good point when he changed. Don’t get me wrong—when I listen to my computer speakers with sub, I’m hearing detail from Lemas. Drag that it went asunder, maybe in the mastering, maybe on account of necessary decisions recording a live date with its inherent bleed. Sometimes something’s got to take a dive for the common good.
Blessedly there are no attempts to rework tired standards. Most of the repertoire is, in fact, Marucci’s doing. Not only is he a contender in the field of neo-bop drumming but a fine composer to boot. And he’s a writer of a different sort. You’ve seen his educational columns in MD and Down Beat. In any event, he is direct, audacious, and primed. Count in a tune and he’s out of the gate first, not rushing but certainly not trotting along. For me, most amazing was the Marucci, Webb, and Lemas resurrection of the drums-bass-sax trio format, which I’d assumed was passé, at least in urban centers. These guys prove it’s a credible forum for good tunes and blowing—in the right hands.
I’d do a running commentary, tune by tune ,but as I write I’m too busy flowing with this album, which is playing in the background. I grew up, literally, with Coltrane. I remember as a kid, under the covers (don’t even go there) listening to Elvin sparkling with his cymbals and probing with his kick. Well, I hear this especially on “Avenue of the Americas”, where, at the 1:45 mark, give or take, you hear some of the slickest, toughest Marucci I’ve heard to date. He’s all over this album like a good rash and, as Webb remarks in the liners, Mat Marucci takes the lion’s share of blame for the ferocity of all ten tracks. Speaking of “Avenue”, I’d like to compliment Webb, whom I met at NAMM (and shot the cover photo, never guessing it would grace an album cover): “Doug, beautiful development of your solo, starting around 2:30 right on through that peak reminiscent of Sonny Rollins and Archie Shepp!”
Maybe you should buy Mat Marucci & Doug Webb Trio with Rob Lemas: Why Not? It’d be the perfect gift for some future occasion.
On the other hand, break it open, play it and keep it.