Regatta Bar

Larry Goldings / Peter Bernstein / Bill Stewart

It was a homecoming for organist Larry Goldings at the Regattabar Thursday night. This Newton native’s revered trio – which includes guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer Bill Stewart – has been wowing audiences for the past 20 years. The band took a stop in Cambridge to promote their newest album, Live at Smalls.

In a band of only three musicians, groove is everything. While the set list varied from original tunes to jazz standards of different styles, the band was consistently in the pocket. Goldings was the biggest factor in the groove, walking bass with his left hand while soloing and playing chords in his right. Along with Bill Stewart’s keen sense of time and Peter Bernstein’s full, clear tone, the trio maintained a strong sense of groove, further allowing each individual musician to communicate and explore.

It was clear that these musicians had been playing together for several years. While each a star in their own right, Goldings, Bernstein, and Stewart were having a modest and true musical conversation all night. The band’s cohesiveness allowed each member to experiment outside their comfort zone, knowing that the rest of the band would follow. This was made clear on a Peter Bernstein original called “Jive Coffee”. While the tune had a simple Latin feel, Bernstein and Goldings’ solos soared above the tune’s simplicity to unexpected heights. Each musician knew when to build up energy and get louder, but also knew when not to play – to exercise restraint. Through all the highs and lows, the band stayed together with impressive chemistry, giving the audience an opportunity to appreciate the emotion and feeling of improvisation at its best.

— Nathan Basch (Jazz pianist, Economics student at The George Washington University)