I love a good threesome!
By that, I mean a musical trio.
Stripped down, with just enough musicians to provide a back beat to the melody, when done right it’s a thing of beauty. Without further ado, here’s five of my favorite albums from five favorite power trios, in no particular order.
Outlandos D’Amour — The Police (1978)
No list of classic power trios would be complete without The Police. Walking the line between punk, pop, New Wave, and reggae, The Police were kind of doing their own thing. At the time they decided to call it quits in the 80’s, they were one of the biggest rock acts in the world. Even my dad, an old jazz head who rarely ventured into popular music, had a few albums and a t-shirt for their album Synchronicity which was a huge hit. My favorite, however, will always be their first studio album with Andy Summers replacing their original guitarist. While most people could probably recognize Roxanne and Can’t Stand Losing You, the whole album is pretty damn incredible.
By way of example, “So Lonely” that captures the sheer energy and joy they bring to the table.
Sunday at the Village Vanguard — Bill Evans Trio (1961)
If you didn’t think I was going to pull out some jazz, you clearly don’t know me. The Village Vanguard sessions were recorded with the iconic Bill Evans Trio featuring Scott LaFaro on bass and drummer Paul Motian. The three of them form a perfectly in-sync combo to deliver up the platonic ideal of West Coast Jazz. Piano, bass, drums and a couple of alternative takes (on the CD version, that is). Listen, I know jazz scares some of you. That’s fair. It’s a big ocean and there are sharks in the water. Bill Evans is remarkably accessible.
For reference, his trio’s recording of “Alice in Wonderland” from this album.
Live Music Europe 2010 — Joe Jackson (2011)
There are few musicians who bring as much energy and reinvention to their live shows as Joe Jackson. A classically trained musician, he experimented with his sound, mixing up his band as it suited his whims, rearranging his old material in new ways with new instruments. But he started as a trio, so when he got the old gang back together to tour decades later, complete with frequent collaborator, the extraordinary bass player Graham Maby, it was a magical experience.
Your bite-sized sample, their recording of “Another World,” originally written for his first big album, Night and Day.
Invisible Touch — Genesis (1986)
Back in the day when MTV still showed music videos, it was a gateway to knew, cool music for those of us living in the cultural wasteland of rural America. I still remember the first time I saw Genesis. Not the original lineup. It would be years before I would learn that Peter Gabriel used to be the front man for the band. For me, Genesis was always a power trio of Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford, and Tony Banks. I don’t expect this album will be on many’s “Best rock albums of all time” — much of the criticism from when it was released compared it unfavorably to Gabriel’s “So” which was came out earlier in the year, and Collins’ prior solo album “No Jacket Required.” Doesn’t matter. It still holds up and the three of them sound great together.
Plus, it gave us this terrifying video.
Live — Ben Folds Five (2011)
I’ll be honest. This is one of the bands and albums that inspired this entire list. It’s been sitting in the back of my head for over a year now. Ben Folds and crew live is pure punk energy–with a piano. A lot of that is helped by Robert Sledge absolutely punishing that bass and Darren Jessee on drums. Their quieter stuff will pull you apart. Their louder stuff will make those broken pieces want to dance.
Submitted for your approval, “Uncle Walter,” which originally appeared on the first Ben Folds Five album.