by Elberton Cisnero
What happens when three friends come together to play a gig and the result is so profound it forms a new super group that explores a range of standards and original compositions for the love of the creative process. The answer is easy; it’s the OKB Trio. An acronym of Oscar Perez on piano, Kuriko Tsugawa on bass and Brian Woodruff on drums. The group is a collaborative effort, each player is an integral part of the overall band sound and trajectory.
Pianist and Queens native Oscar Perez has shared the stage Phoebe Snow, Wycliffe Gordon, Christian McBride, Charenee Wade, Dave Stryker, Adrian Cunningham, Steve Turre, Eddie Allen and Don Braden. Perez is also faculty for Montclair State University and Jazz House Kids in Montclair, NJ.
Born in Tokyo, bassist Kuriko Tsugawa’s credits include Anthony Wonsey, Walter Blanding, Marcus Printup, Lee Pearson, Tia Fuller, Rodney Green, Mike LeDonne, Jeb Patton, and Warren Wolf.
Drummer Brian Woodruff has performed with Bobby Watson, Marian McPartland, Gary Versace, Harvie S, Eric Lewis (ELEW). Recently, he has performed with James Spaulding, Sherman Irby, Rufus Reid, Robin Eubanks, Dave Scott, and Nicole Henry. He has been the house drummer for Unity of New York since 2001. Woodruff is a founding member of the Queens Jazz OverGround.
“I’m Gonna Sit right Down and Write Myself a Letter” is a good example of the playfulness of the OKB trio and their Ing…. The medium tempo is given a relaxed swing feel by Woodruff and Tsugawa, while Perez playfully states the melody with ornaments and counter melodies. Woodruff’s brush work is prodigious on this track. During Perez’s solo, the three are constantly conversing and throwing musical and rhythmic ideas around. Woodruff switches to sticks as Tsugawa switches from a two feel to a quarter note pulse, this builds energy and Perez responds, but the relaxed swinging nature of the feel is not only maintained, it is intensified. The joy this trio plays and interacts with is obvious, and it results in an enjoyable musical statement.
“El Padrino” is an original waltz by Perez that finds the trio playfully exploring the push and pull of three four time. The melody is lyrical, and the form is well structured. Tsugawa’s bass solo is melodic and builds on the melody and intervallic structures of scales. Perez starts with short phrases and develops them into long flowing passages that clearly define the form that breathes. Woodruff’s drumming is focused and interactive. Although this is not a swing feel, there is still a “ing..” about it, the pulse has a relaxed sway and again, the joy of the trio shines through!
The OKB Trio has many facets to the way they play and their original compositions have a luster that is heartfelt and musically complete. Not just a musician to musician album, though filled with plenty of top-notch playing and composing, The Ing… takes a step forward and remembers the musicality this genre once offered aplenty.
Tracks to sample first: “Hi-Heel Sneakers,” “I Remember You” and “March 3rd.” The song to take a chance on is “El Padrino.”