Charles Rumback Trio Credit: Macie Stewart

Versatility has long been drummer Charles Rumback’s calling card, but his empathic, elastic range—which has included feverish free jazz, elegant pop-rock, and exploratory groove music—and commitment to ensemble play have sometimes hampered his name recognition. In spite of that, Rumback’s rumbling, post-Paul Motian sound is easily recognizable, and I’m glad he seems to have found a working band that lets it resonate more clearly. His recent Tag Book (Ears & Eyes), the second album he’s released in 2017 with his ruminative trio with pianist Jim Baker and New York bassist John Tate, reinforces his complementary development as composer and leader. The recording features four reflective, spacious, and occasionally glacial originals alongside a tender, gently swinging reading of the Stanley Cowell classic “Equipoise.” While Baker’s patient lyric touch—equal parts luxuriant and circuitous, with harmonically ambiguous phrases that hang in the air like smoke—feels like the focal point by default, the entire album offers a profound three-way exploration of high-level improvisation. Rumback doesn’t take any stand-alone solos but—as heard on the striking opening piece, “Convulsive”—every gesture, pattern, and oblique melodic phrase he plays feels both spontaneous and measured, and designed to be savored. Tate ultimately serves as the music’s anchor, playing thoughtful lines that give the trio its harmonic and sonic center.   v