The OKB Trio keeps things cool and simple on “The Ing”

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Jazz ensemble, OKB Trio keeps things simple on their debut album. After jamming at the Blackbird bar restaurant in Astoria, Queens, OKB became an official trio in 2010. The album, forthcoming April 6, 2018, is titled “The Ing.” The title refers to the group’s desire to keep the “ing” in “swing”–their words. Put another way, they want to keep things simple. The album is a mix of standards and originals, and listeners can hear the so-called “ing.” The songs are energetic and clear, the swing is obvious.

About OKB Trio

When it comes to keeping things simple, OKB Trio makes simple jazz sound sophisticated. The members of the group were veterans of other ensembles before forming a trio. OKB Trio is formed by Oscar Perez on piano, Brian Woodruff on drums, and Kuriko Tsugawa on bass. The ensemble’s name is created by the first letter of each member’s name. Perez and Woodruff had the idea for a jazz band that played more simple arrangements after spending time playing in larger ensembles that focused on more complex songs.

In June 2010, Perez, Tsugawa, and Woodruff were bonding over jazz and drinks at Blackbird’s in Astoria. The chemistry for the band came together that night. But the group’s path to this first album had a couple of significant roadblocks. First, the studio OKB wanted to record in was still under construction when the group was ready to work on the album. And second, Tsugawa and her husband Abe were expecting a baby. Incidentally, Abe is the art director for the CD, and is a board member of Queens Jazz OverGround, the label that ultimately released “The Ing.”

The studio would come to be known as Big Orange Sheep, and it was the project of Chris Benham and Kevin Thomas with assistance from the group’s local music community. Woodruff even helped lay electrical wire at Big Orange Sheep. The birth of the Tsugawas’ daughter bought the studio’s representatives some time before the band was ready. Thus, “The Ing” was both the first album recorded at Big Orange Sheep and the first album to be released by Queens Jazz OverGround.

“The Ing”

While the members of OKB might have a more simple approach to jazz, the songs on “The Ing” sound as though they are part of complicated musical traditions, and they are. With only three members and no guest musicians, the soundscape on the album sounds bright, clear and easy to follow. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with large ensembles and their respective sounds. But OKB manages to sound fresh and polished and not stripped down.

“The Welcome Song” by OKB Trio

The song kicks off the album. It is one of OKB’s originals and was written by Woodruff.The instrumentation comes in gently as if making way for brass and woodwinds to complete the sound and push the song forward. Tsugawa’s bass is made to thrum and vibrate with an interesting technique that adds subtle dynamics to the song.

Instead of ushering in different classes of instruments, the trio changes approach. The gentle sound is replaced by a spirited mix of clacking and slightly thunderous drums. The piano sounds as though it should be dancing over the top of the soundscape. It is persistent as rain and that quality allows the song to retain its fresh quality.

Whether OKB Trio plays originals or cover songs, the group’s chemistry shines. “The Ing”  is full of a swinging energy on tracks as varied as “Hi-Heel Sneakers” to “El Padrino” written by Perez. With 11 tracks that show a mix of approaches, OKB Trio’s debut is fun to listen to and will be a delight to add to any jazz collection.

 

 

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