The Dan Cray Trio’s 3rd CD release, “Save Us!” is a wonderful compilation of jazz tunes that are refreshed with a unique modern jazz approach yet supported by maintaining and respecting the jazz tradition. From the delightful opening track of the familiar R&B tune “Don’t You Worry About a Thing” you know that you are in the capable hands of a group who knows how to reinterpret and improvise masterfully yet respects a straight ahead jazz tradition as well. And this makes for a very satisfying experience as you listen to the 10 tracks of “Save Us!” While there is an impressive list of quality tunes selected from such luminary composers as Thelonious Monk, Wayne Shorter, Horace Silver, and Cole Porter, it is even more impressive how brilliantly the trio improvises, reharmonizes, and reinterprets these time honored tunes in an innovative manner that keeps the listeners attention.

The Dan Cray Trio is comprised of 3 immensely talented jazz musicians originally from the Chicago suburbs: Dan Cray on piano, Clark Sommers on bass, and Greg Wyser-Pratte on drums. And what makes this band so unique and highly respected is that it is truly a collaborative democracy of voices, not just a trio performing tunes as dictated by its leader. Case in point, Dan Cray may have been the one inspired by Stevie Wonder and selected “Don’t You Worry About a Thing” to be reinterpreted but Clark Sommer is the one who arranged the tune. And both Dan and Clark contributed very enjoyable and original compositions to the CD, namely “Good Morning, Good Bye” and “Farther from That,” respectively.

Every track on “Save Us!” is highly innovative in its reinterpreted approach. This is probably best exemplified by the Dameron tune “If You Could See Me Now.” The trio explores this tune at such a beautifully slow tempo that you can’t help but feel the emotion that each note evokes. And “When You Wish Upon a Star” is so carefully deconstructed that the resulting reinterpretation creates a lasting haunting memory for the listener. And “Just One of Those Things” is revamped using numerous surprising moods, grooves, and tempos resulting in a totally fresh, modern, and exciting version.

It is apparent that the Dan Cray Trio is a group of like-minded musicians who “know” the music from all its improvised possibilities but not willing to forget the rich musical history from which the tunes came from. And it’s this consciousness of musical respect and responsibility that makes “Save Us!” so enjoyable to listen to and so highly recommended.

By: Jenifer Dravillas