Because Clare Fischer and Terry Trotter, who co-led a quintet Tuesday at Le Cafe, are both pianists, it was logical to expect a piano duo performance. That, however, was not exactly what transpired.
Trotter, who has racked up a long series of pop and jazz credits, played piano, sometimes opening entirely alone before the rhythm section joined in. Fischer's medium was an electric keyboard--fortunately one of the cleaner sounding, non-distorting models. The interaction between the leaders was secondary; much of the time, one would solo while the other comped.
Fischer displayed his always acute harmonic ear in "Two for the Road," "Nobody Else but Me," his own rhythmically engaging "Coco B" and a blues. Trotter soloed with sensitivity on "I Never Told You," dedicated to its composer Johnny Mandel, who was in the room.
Fischer's backup work during Trotter's solos, and also when guitarist John Pisano had the lead, consisted of rhythmic punctuations so incisive and attractive that he sometimes came close to stealing the attention; but not close enough to spoil the mutual feeling of pleasure in this totally unprepared, ad hoc quintet.
The ever cheerful Abe Laboriel, dancing in place and smiling incessantly, showed his usual mastery of the electric bass. Dave Derge displayed taste and discretion at the drums.
It was curious that although three of the five instruments were amplified, this was strictly non-fusion music of the kind normally associated with acoustic jazz.
The set ended with Fritz Kreisler's "Liebesleid." In a typically casual gesture, halfway through the piece, when Pisano seemed a little unsure, Fischer passed the music to him. Pisano proceeded to play a chorus flawlessly. In sum, here were five thorough pros having a thoroughly agreeable time.