A Quintet Of Great Modern Piano Trios

Led by the late Esbjorn Svensson, E.S.T. was one of the premier modern piano trios. (Courtesy of the artist)
Led by the late Esbjorn Svensson, E.S.T. was one of the premier modern piano trios. (Courtesy of the artist)

A typical jazz piano trio consists of an acoustic piano, bass and drums. The pianist usually serves as the leader, and often composes most of the songs the players perform, but that in no way diminishes the contributions of the bassist and drummer. Since only three instruments are involved, the thoughts and actions of musicians must be absolutely in sync with one another. Improvisations seamlessly flow together: A gentle ballad may sound like they're breathing together, while a fleet-fingered romp might sound like they're chasing each other.

Some legendary piano-trio leaders include Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk, Oscar Peterson, Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett, but these five selections highlight contemporary piano-trio leaders who keep the acoustic jazz tradition alive in fresh ways. Four of these five compositions are original tunes. You might be able to catch some of their influences as you listen, but all five have their own distinct sound.

For more entries in NPR Music's weekly Take Five: A Weekly Jazz Sampler series, click here.

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