An old school twelve tone composer, an AACM composer and Julliard composer walked into a bar. They sat down to play an out came, well, this album. And the bar I am imagining is perhaps a sort of post beat, post bop version of the bar from Star Wars. I guess I am awash with metaphors here.
Imagine, if you can, a melding of musical styles. Take a little Milton Babbitt, a little Anthony Davis, a touch of Wadada Leo Smith and perhaps a bit of Oscar Peterson (there is a little bit of a traditional lounge jazz touch here). I have struggled to characterize this music and struggled perhaps even more to envision its ideal audience but that is not a criticism and is not intended to say anything negative about this album.
To be fair one of the main reasons I think I am struggling to describe this release is that it is a download only release which fortunately is accompanied by some nice cover art by Anna Hegarty and some liner notes which are essentially a quote from some reviews but contain very useful information about the musicians and their history. I guess I would feel differently if this had been a physical instead of digital release but perhaps I am just being nostalgic. Oh, and keep in mind this is a free download.
The varied backgrounds of these musicians have resulted in a blending of styles creating a unique and enjoyable listening experience. You can listen to this relatively short pieces as chamber music of a new classical variety but I think that would be missing the point. This is basically an album of lounge jazz written and performed by some really good musicians who play well together. Calling it “avant-garde” serves only to add a layer of fear and confusion to what should be a pleasant or at least innocuous experience. That is why I called these guys an “atypical” jazz trio in the title of this review.
The musicians include James Hegarty on piano, Paul Steinbeck, electric bass and Shane Del Robles on drums. According to the liner notes these musicians have a pretty varied experience including free jazz, AACM jazz, rock and various other projects. They come together here very well.
In 12 short pieces (a metaphor for serialism?) this album manages to be lyrical and understated. A few tracks use some studio effect of playing the tape backwards but most of what you hear is just acoustic instruments playing short numbers whose titles may mean more to the musicians than to the music itself but that is consistent with the type of music they are playing. The music and the musicianship are good and sincere.
I would love to hear these guys play live in a smoky bar while sipping single malt scotch and hobnobbing with some kindred artistic spirits but I’ll have to settle for hearing it on my CD player (you have to hear this on a decent sound system). I might even try to slip this in to some background music at a party just to see if anyone would notice it as different from whatever other background music might be played. Very nice album and you can’t beat the price.