Charles Rumback Credit: Jacob Hand

Anyone that follows the Chicago music scene closely has surely encountered drummer Charles Rumback, one of the most versatile and tasteful musicians in town, a player who moves easily between jazz, free improvisation, rock, and folk communities. His hard work ethic often means his own projects convene only sporadically, and his regular collaborations with musicians who don’t live in Chicago—like Denver trumpeter Ron Miles and New York saxophonist Tony Malaby—further limits their activity. A little over three years ago he formed an impressive piano trio with Jim Baker and New York bassist John Tate that underlines his subtle touch and ruminative sensibility better than most of his groups. Because Tate doesn’t live in town, the combo hasn’t performed much, but what I’ve caught by the band has been quietly staggering. Last year Rumback and Tate revealed their deep rapport and intuitive connection on a duo album called Daylight Savings, which mixes originals with a couple of standards and a striking, unexpected reading of Messiaen’s O Sacreum Convivium. Now the trio is finally dropping its debut, Threes (Ears & Eyes), where the cross talk is sublime and the refined melodic impulses gently gorgeous. If nothing else the setting provides a simpatico showcase for the lyric, post-Bill Evans side of Baker—a part of his aesthetic usually hidden in free-improv settings—who solos on Rumback’s tender themes with endless invention and harmonic splendor. While the medley “Three Storey Birdhouse/Right Reasons” conveys a ballad feel, there’s plenty of thorniness in the drummer’s wonderfully draggy, prodding machinations—swinging and stammering at once—while Tate plays at a nifty pace that generates tension and the pianist accelerates and decelerates at will. The album also includes a wonderful spin through the brooding Andrew Hill obscurity “Erato,” showing just how far ahead of his time the composer was.   v