Thursday, September 25, 2014

Jazz: Art of the Trio column - DownBeat

Andrew Downing, Jim Lewis, David Occhipinti, Bristles (OM007, 60:13 ****) The average winter temperature in Toronto, Canada hovers breezily around the teens. It takes a hearty soul to lug around an instrument in that kind of weather rather than crawl into a cave and wait for the flowers to bloom. With just ten strings and three valves, Andrew Downing (double bass), Jim Lewis (trumpet) and David Occhipinti (guitar) attack seasonal affective disorder head on with a sparse landscape of brief meditations on painters like Cy Twombly and Wassily Kandinsky interspersed with a lengthier half a dozen standard ballads recorded in mid-January. Occhipinti possesses a growly Jim Hall sound that occasionally evokes a flute while Lewis embraces the spaces between. Downing is equally patient, urging the proceedings with gentle runs. This is the sound of winter, cool and mysterious, stark but beautiful. Ordering info:

John Chin, Undercover (BJUR044, 52:48, ***) Pianist John Chin released his debut album in 2008 and finished his second in 2010. So it must be a frustrating experience to wait four years for that sophomore release to actually see the light of day. Chin’s style falls into the Jarrett/Mehldau lineage that eschews the hard-swinging past in exchange for a more malleable and impressionistic take on the traditional piano/bass/drums setting. His hands seem to always be in constant movement, not necessarily busy but floating at all times in as many different directions as the brain will allow. A delicate take on Chaplin’s “Smile” is juxtaposed with the swagger of one of three Chin originals, “If For No One” which is molded by drummer Dan Rieser’s up-front ride cymbal. Throughout the album, Chin has a confident vulnerability that is broken up by welcome bluesy bursts. Hopefully it won’t take as long to find out what he sounds like today. Ordering info:

Organ Trio East, Chemistry (No catalog number or label, 67:41, **1/2) It has been said that the trombone is the most human-sounding of all instruments but that is only if the human likes to yell. The trombone often appears to be one of the hardest instruments to convey a lot of ideas, most of them pertaining to the softer side of the sonic palette and despite a tune called “Quietly,” trombonist Jay Vonada’s range prefers blasts over whispers. As the sole horn on the trio recording, Vonada has to carry a lot of weight (he also wrote five of the tunes) but organist Steve Adams has his hands full too. He composed four of the tunes including the brisk “Wandering” which highlights drummer Jim Schade’s lithe brushwork. Unfortunately, a muddy recording quality pushes the proceedings a bit too far into the mire. The addition of another horn could add considerable depth here. Ordering info:

Matana Roberts, Sam Shalabi, Nicolas Caloia, Feldspar (TDB9008, 47:21, ***) Is there something going on in Canada that is creating bleak, percussion-less avant-garde trios? Or is it simply a winter trend? This disc recorded in Montreal in December of 2011 has the sharp edges of a sheet of ice and seven song titles named after equally jagged minerals. Roberts’ alto saxophone on “Spinel” evokes a deranged Paul Desmond as bassist Caloia and guitarist Shalabi generate simmering refractions of her soulful flutters. The title track builds into a wailing assault, heightened by Shalabi’s percussive shudder. The juxtaposition of Roberts’ more earthy humanistic tone with her Canadian compatriots’ spasming dissonance forms a complex and difficult puzzle that occasionally becomes too complicated to suss out. Despite those sounds, silence is the prevailing uniter. Each band member is unafraid to listen and wait, filling the gaps with the sound of falling snow. Ordering info:

Michael Musillami Trio, Pride (PSR112613, 124:17, ****) Though this sturdily packaged two disc set is billed as a trio recording there are just as many guests brought on board. There are studio sessions that include tenor saxophonist Jimmy Greene (a pair of bleating appearances including a masterful build on the optimistically titled “Bald Yet Hip”) and pianist Kris Davis who makes attentive contributions to the trembling “Old Tea” while Musillami digs in deep. The guitarist’s interpretation of a wild rumpus, part of four tunes intended for Where the Wild Things Are, is menacing and offers a brief glimpse of the shadowy shredder lurking just under his fingertips. The second disc features four live recordings with violinist Mark Feldman. The result is a harder swinging, see-sawing sound.  The band doesn’t hesitate to stretch out with drummer George Schuller maintaining a tense pulse as bassist Joe Fonda grips tight for a swelling undertow. Ordering info:

No comments: