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Monday, March 13, 2006

The Phil Cunneff Trio at the Cat's Eye Pub

The Phil Cunneff Trio
Mondays at the Cat’s Eye Pub
Fell’s Point, Baltimore

Phil Cunneff represents the essence of improvisational music in the Fell’s Point neighborhood. He’s a local multiple percussion instrumentalist who plays in his city and about it. The URL to his web page is; that says a lot. His latest trio album, Levi, features a nighttime shot of the Fell’s Harbor, displaying all its urban beauty. So, it’s no wonder that you’d find Phil with a couple of other players down at the Cat’s Eye Pub. On Sunday afternoons he’s laying down the rhythm for Steve Kramer’s Bluesicians and on Monday nights you can catch him stretching out jazz numbers with his own Phil Cunneff Trio.
Joining Cunneff in the trio is Ben Frock (trumpet, flugelhorn and cornet) and Jeff Reed (upright bass). The beer at the Cat’s Eye is expensive and good but the music is free and outstanding. The combined ages of Frock and Reed probably equal that of the elder Cunneff and this creates a positive eagerness in the band’s play. The younger fellows look to the drummer for guidance, while Cunneff seems to improvise freely off their youthful energy. There is a loose but all together sound on stage.
There never seems to be more than 15 people in the Cat’s Eye on any given Monday. That is no reflection on the band whatsoever. That fact can be attributed to American society and its need for terrible music. Anyway, it is an extremely intimate place to be if you enjoy good jazz and supporting your local musicians. The band hits a sweet spot with their renditions of tunes like Thelonious Monk’s “Round Midnight,” Ornette Coleman’s “Una Muy Bonita,” The Modern Jazz Quartet’s “Django,” among other classics. Members of the audience howl. In addition to standards, the trio explores some of the originals off Levi.
Between the three sets of music, Cunneff, frock and Reed chat with friends. The young guys drink beer, while Cunneff prefers bottled water. Like his drink of choice, the drummer’s playing is pure. If you’re ever in Fell’s Point and you want to hear some great music you should check out Phil Cunnef and Co.’s scene.

At home, in my car, and on walks I’ve been listening to:
Albert Ayler Holy Ghost: Rare & Unissued Recordings (1962-70)
The Bad Plus Somerville, MA 10/1/05
Jimmy McGriff Electric Funk
Wayne Shorter The All Seeing Eye
Bobby Hutcherson San Francisco


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