The Wee Trio

New Review by Stuart Kremsky

tumblr_inline_n6k2lxPTSh1rgj7rmWhen it comes to playing well with others, the members of The Wee Trio(vibraphonist James Westfall, bassist Dan Loomis and drummer Jared Schonig) get high marks indeed. The band’s fourth CD and first in-performance release is Live At The Bistro, the famed St. Louis venue, and it shows what talent and a cooperative attitude can accomplish when combined with plenty of rehearsal and stage time. You get a good feeling from this music from the very start as the trio slips into the venerable Ray Noble classic Cherokee. Instead of treating it like the rapid-fire exercise that it often becomes, vibraphonist Westfall teases out the melody with the active encouragement of Loomis and a particularly dynamic Schonig. When the pace does pick up, Westfall takes off on a fleet solo, and the band’s inspired “trio-logue” is in full force. Drummer Schonig takes over for an impassioned solo before Westfall takes it out with a bluesy final chorus. All three members of the band compose, and their repertoire is mostly originals. Schonig’s tricky stop-start tune Sabotage relies on the quick reflexes of the players to keep it moving. The deft and hard-swinging Westfall moves over to marimba for a slightly darker sound. Loomis takes his first solo of the date, a tasty and articulate turn in the spotlight that keeps the momentum flowing. Westfall, all alone, introduces his own White Trash Blues with long, chattering lines running up and down the scale until he sidles into the slightly old-fashioned melody. Loomis takes the first solo, and the band’s delicate interactions on this track are impressive and emblematic of the way they listen very closely to one another and respond appropriately. The blues is structured in a way that keeps the focus shifting from vibes to drums to bass to all three together, and it works as well for the living room audience as it seems to have fired up the St. Louis crowd. The Wee Trio’s third album was an investigation of the songs of David Bowie, whose Queen Bitch done live here provides fertile ground for their dynamic treatment. Other high points in this generously timed set include Loomis’ tender Bass Intro to the standardThere Is No Greater Love, the ensemble’s tight playing on the bassist’s Ranthem, and the all-out end of the night feel of the closing White Out, with a fine, in-the-pocket marimba solo by Westfall. Live At The Bistro captures a fun band in their favorite environment, playing for people on stage. Even without the visual element, the excitement largely remains intact on disc. Heartily recommended.