On the new "Trapper Keaper," Will Thompson and Marcello Benetti allow their musical guests the spotlight without giving away the show.

trapper keaper photo
Trapper Keaper

Trapper Keaper presents Will Thompson and Marcello Benetti as very generous hosts. Officially, they are the improvised music duo Trapper Keaper with Thompson on keyboards and Benetti on drums. But they share space with collaborators on the album with such generosity and support them so subtly that the signature moments on the album belong to pedal steel wizard Dave Easley, trumpet player Ashlin Parker (whose emotional solo in “Flying” is all the more effective next to Rex Gregory’s adventurous journey on sax before it), and percussionist Mike Dillon, who does as much as Thompson and Benetti to frame the musical world of “Hey, Jeff … You’re Late!” including a commanding vibes solo before Jeff Albert’s trombone becomes the focal point in the song’s second half.

Albert released the album on his Breakfast for Dinner Records, and Trapper Keaper will play a CD-release show with guests Dillon and Gregory tonight at 10:30 at The Blue Nile in the Balcony Room a part of the Open Ears Series.  

Still, Thompson and Benetti never seem like sidemen on their own project. Each chooses when to step forward and assert himself, and on Trapper Keaper,  but what you hear more than anything else is what you imagine when you hear the phrase “spontaneous composition.” Their musical conversation leads to shared purpose and subtle musical gestures to build something that rarely sounds predominantly improvised. The tracks “Darth Vader,” “Hangover,” and “Goodnight Y’all” sound perfectly matched to their titles with clear, consistent tones and moods, so much so that they work when appreciated as instances of musicians hearing and responding to each other wisely, and as simple pieces of music. They’re satisfying as practice and product.

The album, like the entire Open Ears series, reveals a serious shortcoming in the Jazz Tent programming at Jazz Fest. The fact that musicians who make such accomplished and comprehensible music like that on Trapper Keaper are left out of the festival is an indictment of the narrowness with which the tent is booked. Kidd Jordan is only one part of the improvised music community, but he’s also among the musically thorniest. Jeff Albert, James Singleton and Trapper Keaper would make sense at the Fair Grounds, and the fact that they’re playing in plain sight on Frenchmen Street only makes their omission more glaring.