Friday, July 29, 2016

A Slew of Trios (Part 1)

Over the past several months, a large amount of recordings by trios have been issued. Not just piano-bass-drums trios but other instrumental configurations of three.  However, for this first of a series of reviews, we'll only look at piano ensembles.

The Fred Hersch Trio, along with the Bill Charlap Trio and the Keith Jarrett - Gary Peacock - Jack DeJohnette ensemble, is a most consistent unit live and on record.  For the past seven years, the pianist along with bassist John Hébert and drummer Eric McPherson have played in venues in this country and overseas.  "Sunday Night at The Vanguard" is the group's latest recording (its fourth for Palmetto Records plus there is one on the Japanese Venus Records label) and, like the others, must be described with superlatives for the Trio and its individual members.  The 10-song program is equally split between originals and standards or should-be standards.
Opening with Richard Rodgers "A Cockeyed Optimist" (from "South Pacific"), one can listen to how these gentlemen work together. Focus on the solo section where you hear pushing the beat which pushes the pianist while the bassist plays melodic counterpoint.  The rhythm section rambles with such ease while Hersch dances, swings, and sings.  Later, there's a beautiful reading of "The Peacocks"; the Jimmy Rowles piece has been recorded by numerous musicians, including three other versions by Hersch. It's on his 1986 "Sarabande" album with Charlie Haden and Joey Baron, a quintet version on 1995's "Point in Time", and a solo version from 2014's "In Amsterdam: Live at The Bimhuis."  Like his continuing fascination with Thelonious Monk, the pianist keeps finding new approaches to the song and all of them are engrossing. Speaking of Monk, there is an ever-so-playful reading of "We See" that is, at turns, funky, swinging, bluesy and features moments of interplay where McPherson "trades 4" with his partners. The emotionally rich reading of Lennon & McCartney's "For No One" and the open-ended joy of Kenny Wheeler's "Everybody's Song But My Own" (the title track of the Venus Records album) give the avid listener a front row seat to brilliance.

Four of the Hersch originals come after the first cut.  They include  "Serpentine", with McPherson's cymbals leading the way into a deliberate melody and a solo section that is reminiscent of Keith Jarrett's original music for his Trio. "The Optimum Thing" flat-out swings, the three musicians dropping into a double-time romp halfway through.  A strong blues introduction on "Calligram" changes direction several times, Hébert's melodic bass dancing around the piano figures and sparkling, shivering, cymbals.  More playfulness can be heard on "Blacking Palomino" which struts atop more impressive drum work.  But, be sure to pay attention to the delightful bass lines as they dance alongside and underneath the piano.

"Sunday Night at The Vanguard" is composed of music from the last night of a six-day run at the venerated New York City landmark. There are artists who record every note of a long engagement and labels who chose to release multi-disk sets but Fred Hersch chose to give listeners what he thought was the "lightning in a bottle" of a night when the band was "in the zone" - this glorious album should make you want to see the band live.  And, do go see and hear them as The Fred Hersch Trio is among the best ensembles of any size playing in this day and age.

For more information, go to This recording will be released on August 12, 2016.

Born in Venezuela (moving to Philadelphia, PA, at the age of 12), pianist and composer Edward Simon is one of the busiest and most accomplished musicians, one who gracefully moves between small and large ensembles all while creating a body of work that is increasingly more impressive.

"Latin American Songbook" (to be released in late August on Sunnyside Records) is a gracious and highly musical journey to the roots of Edward Simon.  Featuring drummer Adam Cruz and bassist Joe Martin, the pianist has chosen music that helped shape him as a musician and person, pieces he had first explored as a young student or had played behind his father or heard on the radio.Simon has such an articulate way of playing a melody one can hear the words as they flow through his fingers. Pieces such as "Alfonsina Y el Mar" (from Argentinean composer/pianist Ariel Ramírez) and the dramatically solemn "Gracias a la Vida" (by Chilean composer and activist Violeta Parra) showcase the excellent work of Simon and Martin, whose bass solos are often stunning and always melodic.

photo: Scott Chernis
The Trio remakes familiar works by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Astor Piazzola, making the listener not only enjoy the pieces in a a different light but also hear how familiarity with material breeds creative license.  Jobim's "Chega de Saudade" is changed to a hard-bop adventure as interpreted by Bud Powell while Piazzola's "Libertango" is closer to the original, Simon playing the fine melody over a sea of cymbals and with Martin's active underpinning.  Listen how the pianist expands upon that melody during his solo, never leaving the chordal foundation of the song but dancing through the changes with glee.

"Volver" (Return), a lovely tango composed in 1934 by Argentinean actor, composer, and singer Carlos Gardel, moves with grace and urgency, Simon's chordal work and generous improvisation over the pulsating rhythm section (listen closely to ever-changing inventions of Cruz).  The final track, a sublime performance of "En la Orilla del Mundo" (At the End of the World) by Cuban composer Martin Rojaz, is so musical and so emotionally rich.  Simon first heard the piece performed by Charlie Haden and pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba; here, the melody falls like a rain shower over the spare yet melodic bass line and the soft brushes.  It's a masterful finish to an excellent album.

Edward Simon excels in a trio setting and has since his 1990's recordings through his work with John Pattitucci and Brian Blade. "Latin American Songbook" introduces a new ensemble (he has recorded with Adam Cruz for CrissCross but never with Joe Martin) but the intent is the same - make the finest artistic statement one can. This is music that moves and will move you as well.

For more information, go to and

Here's the Trio live playing a song not on the album:

Myriad3 is a the cooperative trio of Chris Donnelly (piano, synth), Dan Fortin (acoustic bass, fretless electric bass, synth), and Ernesto Cervini (drums, glockenspiel). They first played together by accident in 2010, discovering they has similar tastes and goals.  They have toured throughout their native Canada, the United States, and Europe.  "Moons" (ALMA Records) is their third album and, arguably, their best.  Weeks on the road and time in the studio have sharpened this material.  The musicians take more sonic chances yet never abandon their collective beliefs that melody is so important and creative interactions are supreme.

The 11 tracks on "Moon" (four by Cervini, three each by Donnelly and Fortin, and an exciting reading of "Counter of the Cumulus" from the catalog of Disasterpeace), have a great deal of variety. From the throbbing beat of "Skeleton Key" (with its drone-like melodies from piano and bass) to the solemn ballad "Stoner" to the playful stop-start rock of "Brother Dom", this music keeps one interested. The blend of acoustic and electric bass on Fortin's "Peak Fall" and how it enhances and wraps around the piano melody takes the ballad and expands its rhythmic range (listen to the interplay of bass and drums during Fortin's solo).  Cervini's "Ameiliasburg" has an Erik Satie-like simplicity in its unadorned melody and quiet backing - the shortest track on the disc, it is a lovely and emotional tone poem.
The drama and rising urgency of "Sketch 8" and funky bounce of "Unnamed Cells" (quite a danceable track) shows the versatility of the band. The latter track adds synths and bass effects but not to the detriment of the music.  When the trio gets a head of steam, this music moves with a passion.  When they explore the quieter side, the tracks, such as "Exhausted Clock", allow one to hear how each member contributes to the sound, to the melody, to the movement.  "Counter of the Cumulus" shows they are tuned into the musical world around them and enjoy the opportunity to interpret what they are hearing.

Myriad3, as it continues to mature as an ensemble, are creating its own sound. The various influences (e.g. The Bad Plus, Steve Reich) have been absorbed and the trio exhibits no trepidation as they move forward. Each man is a leader in his own right and each has worked with a wide variety of artists.  "Moons" brings all their influences and experiences together - this is 21st Century piano trio music that is serious fun!

For more information, go to

Have a listen to the opening track:

No comments:

Post a Comment