The story goes that Joan Carroll, Mark Rubinstein, and Matt Dunne became the Accidental Trio when their bandmates failed to show up for a gig. It’s hard to imagine any other circumstance in which a group of jazz musicians would decide to form a trio built around voice, guitar, and French accordion.
It’s that odd combination, and the open spaces it creates, that makes this band’s debut album so appealing. It helps that each of the members rise to the occasion with such ease. Carroll’s beautifully supple voice has never been heard with such front-and-center clarity before. Dunne anchors the music by simultaneously playing the changes and handling bass-line movements on his guitar. And Rubinstein consistently steals the show with accordion solos that are remarkably lyrical, endlessly replenishing founts of melodic inspiration.
The highlights from this improbable band come with the most improbable selections. “A Timeless Place (The Peacocks)” and Charles Mingus’s “Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love” are so convoluted they’d send most singers into tears of frustration, but Carroll winds her way around the tunes with great confidence. The group also dares to play bossa nova (“How Insensitive”) without percussion, and the results are surprisingly fresh.
Since their sound is so understated and idiosyncratic, they’re able to apply it to almost anything. Todd Rundgren’s “Hello, It’s Me” and Henry Mancini’s “Moon River” might seem like overly obvious pop choices, but by the time Carroll and Co. reach the second verse of each tune, you practically forget that you’ve heard these songs before.