Sunday, April 1, 2012

Myra, Mark & Matt Make Music (Live and on CD) + CD Pick

Friday, April 6, 2012 - "Why is this night different from all other nights?" In households around the world, families seated at the dinner table ask this (and other questions) on the first night of Passover.

For creative music aficionados in the New Haven, CT, area, the answer is quite exciting - on this night, Trio M comes to perform 2 sets, 8:30 and 10 p.m., in the sonically sweet confines of Firehouse 12, 45 Crown Street. 

Formed in 2006 by pianist Myra Melford, bassist Mark Dresser and drummer/percussionist Matt Wilson, the musicians toss the "traditional" concept of a piano trio out the door and play it by ear (rather big "ears" at that.)  They are touring in support of their 2nd CD, "The Guest House" (Yellow Bird/ENJA), recorded and mixed at the Firehouse in June 2011.   All 3 contribute pieces to the repertoire, ranging from Ms. Melford's playful title track (which has echoes of her first Trio recordings as well as the Tizol/Ellington classic "Caravan") to Wilson's dedication to Albert Ayler ("Al") to Dresser's 2-part "Tele Mojo", a track that opens and closes quietly while going through a series of fascinating changes in-between. 

Other highlights include Wilson's "Hope (for the Cause)", a tender ballad composed for Cancer's Society "Relay for Life" (Wilson's wife was diagnosed with leukemia several years and in, thankfully, in remission), features lovely arco bass work and spare piano lines.  Another soft piece is Ms. Melford's "Even Birds Have Homes (to return to)", inspired by the late Iraqi poet Muhammad Mahdi Al-Jawahiri (1899 - 1997) features Satie-like piano lines, more fine arco bass and quiet yet effective percussion.  "Don Knotts" is a Wilson piece with a circular melody, joyous "parade"-style drumming, and a muscular bass line.  The interaction of the 3 is playful, conversational, and ever-so-musical.  Listen to how Wilson underscores both the bass and piano solos while never losing his propulsion.  

In a year filled (so far) with splendid piano trio CDs (Vijay Iyer, Ahmad Jamal, Corea/Gomez/Motian, Masabumi Kikuchi), add "The Guest House" to your list of must-haves.  For more information, go to to learn more and get a taste of Trio M's tasty aural treats.  If you are close to the Elm City on Friday (and/or finish your seder early enough), go see and hear them play live - Trio M is creativity personified.  For ticket information, go to or call 203-785-0468.  

"Meridies", the new release on Origin Records by Illinois-born pianist/composer Dan Cray, opens with an up-tempo reading of Charlie Chaplin's "Smile." With the snappy percussion of Mark Ferber and melodic bass work of Clark Sommers, the song has a verve and bounce that gives the normally-melancholy piece a hopeful feel.  It's his first CD for Origin and also his first since moving to Brooklyn, New York, in 2009.  As one moves through this program, which also features tenor saxophonist Noah Preminger on most tracks, you hear an intense pianist, comfortable in his skin and his abilities, not afraid to swing and accentuate his left hand work.  His interplay with Ferber and Sommers (who's played with him for over a decade) shines on every track; the "freedom" he gives them raises not only the intensity but also the quality.  The multi-sectioned "Winter Rose (1728)" has the feel of a short story, with a calm opening but soon the intensity rises through the piano solo as does the interplay of the bass and drums - Preminger's solo takes the piece on a slightly-different path, his swirling lines of cascading notes over the dancing drums leading back to the leader's impressionistic closing lines.  

The slow blues of "Amor Fati", with Preminger's breathy tenor sax and Cray's lyrical piano lines sans rhythm section, is gentle and quite melodic.  Notice Cray's sweet solo and how Preminger insinuates the melody back into the song; it displays the maturity of both the performers and the composition.  The quartet hits hard on Joe Henderson's "Serenity" with a touch of Bud Powell in the piano solo and Ferber's crisp drumming. Sommer's martial drumming leads in "March of the Archetypes" and one might expect from his attack a hard-edged piece but the song moves in on a brisk but not powerful melodic line. As the soloists hit their stride, the intensity picks up.  The interaction of tenor sax and piano during Preminger's solo is impressive.  "East 69" opens with a lovely melodic discourse from Cray (he really articulates each note); the rhythm section seems to enter on tip-toes right up through the bass solo but the energy picks up during the piano solo (the music does not get "wild" - it's the reaction of the piano to Ferber's more energetic approach.)

"Meredies" is a delight, a program to sit with and soak in the rich melodies and fine interactions of all involved.  Do let it soak as you may not hear all the nuances first or second time through.  The original piece (6 of the 8 tracks are Dan Cray compositions) are impressive, well-constructed and not over-thought.  One can really appreciate the excellent rhythm section while Noah Preminger continues to impress as a melodic yet adventurous player.  If you've not heard any of Dan Cray's previous 4 CDs (like me), "Merdies" is a great way to get introduced to his music.  For more information, go to or

No comments:

Post a Comment