The String Trio of New York has long been one of the finest avant-garde chamber jazz groups around. Formed in 1977 by bassist John Lindberg, guitarist James Emery, and violinist Billy Bang, the group was originally intended to spotlight its members' compositional skills, in addition to their advanced collective improvisations. As the years passed, however, the String Trio expanded its focus to include numerous commissioned works by contemporary avant-gardists, plus arrangements of classic pieces by jazz masters. Despite the seemingly cerebral nature of its conception, the String Trio has successfully maintained a grounding in melody and swing that helps make even its most adventurous work accessible. The String Trio recorded its debut album, First String, for Black Saint in 1979; four more albums followed on the same label, but following 1986's Natural Balance, Bang departed to pursue other interests. He was replaced by Charles Burnham, who remained with the group until 1991, when Regina Carter took his place. With Carter, the group recorded some of its strongest albums in years, including 1992's Intermobility (for Arabesque) and 1993's Blues...? (for Black Saint). However, Carter departed not long after, and with new violinist Diane Monroe, the group focused more on its performing and repertory activities than on recording. Two exceptions included a 1996 session with Anthony Davis, and the 1998 20th-anniversary celebration Faze Phour. In 2001, Monroe was replaced by Rob Thomas.