The history of modern jazz is stocked with sensational trios. These include the Nat King Cole Trio, the Red Norvo Trio, the Oscar Peterson Trio, the Thelonious Monk Trio, the Jimmy Giuffre 3, the Horace Silver Trio, the Ahmad Jamal Trio, the Wes Montgomery Trio and the Bill Evans Trio among many others. Now add one more: a group known briefly simply as The Trio.
Formed by bassist Hal Gaylor [pictured above], the group featured Gaylor, Walter Norris on piano and Billy Bean on guitar. Strangely, The Trio recorded only one album—aptly called The Trio—in June 1961 for Riverside. A re-issue—Rediscovered—was released much later by Britain's String Jazz and featured unreleased Riverside material and a tune-up session in advance of the studio date. What makes The Trio interesting is the mystique surrounding the individual players and the fact that none of them recorded nearly as much as they should have.
Born in Montreal in 1929, Gaylor studied music at McGill Conservatory. In February 1953, he played with Charlie Parker at the Chez Paree in Montreal, a performance that was captured on tape and released decades later by Uptown. Gaylor also recorded with Chico Hamilton and cellist Fred Katz in the 1950s. Gaylor's last known recording came in 1972 with Benny Goodman's orchestra in Copenhagen. He apparently left jazz at some point to become a certified drug counselor.
Philadelphia-born Billy Bean [pictured above] also was a highly regarded player who recorded just a small number of albums—most notably with fellow guitarist John Pisano. Later Bean produced a series of play-along albums for guitar students. He died in 2012.
Pianist Walter Norris was born in Little Rock, Ark. He recorded behind several West Coast jazz leaders and played on Ornette Coleman's seminal Something Else!!! He moved to Germany in 1977 and recorded with Chet Baker, the NDR Big Band, Herb Geller and Joe Pass among others. Norris also recorded a string of albums for Concord in the 1990s. He died in 2011.
On The Trio, you hear three underrated and under-recorded artists conversing in the truest sense—their individual ideas are confident and passionate while together they swing like one instrument. We're lucky to have this one album with a bunch of extra tracks. After hearing this album, it's unclear why Orrin Keepnews didn't lock the door and record until they begged to leave.
JazzWax tracks: You'll find Hal Gaylor, Billy Bean and Walter Norris' The Trio (tracks 1-8) along with the Rediscovered tracks here.
JazzWax clip: How good were these guys? You be the judge here...
A special JazzWax thanks to Jon Jackson and David Langner