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George Schuller

Matt Pavolka

Barney McAll

Photos by Albert Brooks

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Albany, NY
October 16, 2009

by Jeff Waggoner

George Schuller is a stealth drummer. He doesn’t demand to be heard. He never pounds and never plays a note that isn’t needed. He is a musician first and foremost and the fellow members of his “Trio This,” – pianist Barney McAll and bassist Matt Pavolka -- share that same musical sensibility with Schuller.

Albany was lucky to have NYC-based “Trio This” play Oct. 16 at Justin’s on Lark. The appearance was part of a launch of the trio’s CD “That” from GM Recordings, described as collaboration between Schuller and McAll. And it’s fitting that these two very gracious men want to share billing.

Props are also due to Justin’s Victoria Cipollari for having the wisdom to get Schuller ‘s trio up to Albany. There is a vast stratum of incredible musicians – all unlikely to be read about in Time magazine or Entertainment Weekly – who are ripe for deserved appreciation. It is a blessing to have someone like Victoria, booking for Justins’, who is such a good judge of REAL musicianship.

I first discovered Schuller’s drumming about 10 years ago when a friend gave me a copy of French horn player Tom Varner’s beautiful CD “The Window Up Above.” As ever, Schuller shined. What immediately jumps out is his subtlety and articulation on drums and his crisp, dry cymbal work. Instead driving the listener back against the back wall with loud salvos, Schuller draws the listener in.

Playing with a pianist like McAll, and a bassist like Pavolka, Schuller becomes a coloraturist, but fills in with short, bright solos, using his well loved, compact Gretch set to the maximum. No bells and whistles needed, as they would be a distraction from the artistry.

For those who missed the Justin’s appearance, the CD “THAT” (by TRIO THIS) has much of the material covered on Oct. 16, including the songs Pug Nose by Wayne Shorter , Dreamsville by Henry Mancini and several originals by both Schuller and McCall. It’s highly recommended for lovers of piano trios.

Jeff Waggoner has written book, CD and concert reviews for publications such as Down Beat, Jazz Times, Blues Access and The New York Times.