Often enough these days if a band is drummer-led you may not be able to tell. He or she may not always be out front. Not so with No Fast Food. Phil Haynes gives us lots of excellent drumming, though he is in no way out to steal the show. It is a naturally organic triple-sound.
You can hear this plainly and to good advantage on the 2-CD In Concert (CornerStoreJazz) out fairly recently.
The music is culled from two small jazz venue appearances. Both find the band in top form. Liebman seems to be grateful for the hard swinging, open approach of the trio, for he sounds his very best. He is a living master, of course, and does not hang back. Drew Gress has paid dues and played with all kinds of folks, gaining in poise and stature cumulatively as time goes by, so that now he is doing some of his best work. He may not come off the tip of your tongue if someone asks you to name three of the top modern jazz bass players today, but there is no doubt he is one of the very finest for sheer musical imagination and deeply rich tone. And Phil Haynes! He swings hard like Elvin, has an acute sense of set sound and inventive figuration like Tony, and he plays with the others, not especially against them (and not to take away from the latter strategy when it works). He shines forth as an especially well-integrated musical drum master in this trio. A player who has soaked up the tradition and gives out with himself.
That's what you hear in these two full disks, the sound of a very together trio that can play a blues with a soulful contemporary stance, take it out, and at the same time work within varying compositional structures for a program that never tires.
It is perhaps a sleeper? There is so much coming out these days that you might miss it if you are not paying attention. But you should not because it is some great new jazz!
Get it if you can. For Liebman. For Gress. And for Phil Haynes.