by Tim Coakley

The Classics

Crisp, clean piano work marks this disc, which consists not variations on classical themes but performances of modern jazz classics.

Such tunes a Miles Davis' "Solar," Benny Golson's "Along Came Betty," and Tadd Dameron's "Ladybird" have become as much a part of the repertoire as show tunes and standards from the Great American Songbook.

Mayer's choices are tunes that, as he points out, are more often played by larger groups with horns; hearing them in a trio setting brings out their character in a way that blowing session often does not.

Mayer has a gentle, even touch and explores the contours of each tune in a way that lets the listener think along with him.

"Solar" starts things off at a brisk clip, with Jones switching from brushes to sticks after the opening chorus.

"Along Came Betty" evokes the Jazztet, which composer Golson co-led with trumpeter Art Farmer. Mayer gives it a thoughtful treatment, as if he were turning the pages of a particularly absorbing book.

Horace Silver's "Ecaroh" (Horace spelled backward) is a multi-themed piece that starts as a Latin lick, then moves into a nice medium groove. It was first recorded by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. Reid and Jones are nicely propulsive here as elsewhere.

The disc closes with "ladybird" by Dameron. Mayer moves through it with grace and ease (he quotes Count Basie's "Easy Does It" during his solo).

This is a relaxed, comfortable disc to listen to, expecially if you're familiar with themes. If not, it's a lovelehy way to get acquaitned with some of the best modern jazz standards.

There are 57 minutes of playing time.