In planning Songbook Trio, Josh Brown was determined to assemble a collection of songs that he not only loved personally, but that would allow listeners to revisit a golden age of popular music in a fresh new light—one that was thrilling, yet full of intimacy and subtlety. The challenge was to take these already familiar songs and ride the fine line of creating arrangements that, for people who know the music, the recognition would still be there, yet there would also be moments of surprise and excitement that do not take away from the pleasure of the songs as a whole. And for those who might not be acquainted with these pieces, the melody would still be transparent rather than hidden within arrangements that are too abstract.
Another aspect of this album is the apparent interactive group dynamic and musical flexibility among the musicians. Josh explains, “Our goal was to tailor these arrangements in such a way that would showcase the rhythmic strength and interplay the three of us have. Fortunately as a trio we were able to accomplish that without the need for a drummer to help propel the energy. One tool we employed frequently was an effect used commonly by classical chamber musicians…passing the role of leader amongst ourselves. For instance, I would be playing the melody, then it would switch to Randy or Neal, creating not only more interest by breaking things up, but also by changing the roles that are sometimes inherent in horn-led trios.”
Furthermore, all three artists play with great urgency and adaptability. Songs such as “On the Street Where You Live,” “I’ve Got it Bad (And That Ain’t Good),” and “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” are certain to illustrate the trio’s achievement of creating fresh, vibrant arrangements. Two of the original titles featured on the album, Josh’s “West Side Constitutional” which starts off the album with a bouncing roll, and Randy’s “Blues for Big Three,” a slow, sad, but resilient ode to his home state of Michigan, deliver the same sense of familiar comfort as one of the more favored classics of the original Songbook era. The end result is a thoughtfully crafted selection that offers not only intrigue for even the most seasoned listener, but also satisfies those who are interested in beautifully played mood music in an intimate setting.