The piano trio is a receptacle for triteness and idée fixe, we all know that. There’s no stylish virtuosity able to defeat the sickly taste of a frazzled standard or the exhaustion elicited by an unconvincing improvisation. Luckily, there are also types of three-headed ensembles where waywardness and lucidity seem to reach an ideal balance. Arms Spread Wide is an example of how things should more or less be done in similar instances. Pianist Lerner – a first meeting for yours truly – sounds animated by a sort of rational fire which permits her to flick various switches during the pieces, a style characterized by precious restraint and thorough intelligibility even in the most spirited segments. She’s finely complemented by bassist Ken Filiano, who – apart from the sections in which succinctness is optional – quite systematically plays lines in which instinctive melodicism is compensated by a tendency to attentively watch the unfolding of events in order to look for an accurate insertion at the due moment. Lou Grassi’s drumming is reassuringly scheme-free, effusive when the time is right, polished and heterodox in equal doses, minimizing the inclination to pointless anarchy everywhere. Ranging across tense dissonance and striking lyricism (“World Of Shades”, a splendid duo between arco bass and piano, comes to mind), this record – though not an epochal milestone – thrusts aside routine for its large part, which is a success in itself.

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