Contrary to popular belief, it's not always size that matters. This is definitely true of the jazz trio. The combination of connection, interaction, and execution can produce magic in the hands of just three focused musicians just as well as a large ensemble. Jazz great Bill Evans sums the goal of the jazz trio as follows: "Especially, I want my work, and the trios if possible, to sing."
Consilience features the Vinson Valega Trio: drummer Vinson Valega, saxophonist/flutist Anton Denner, and bassist Gary Wang. Based in New York, each musician has an extensive resume with names such as Clark Terry, Ray Charles, Grover Washington, Jr., and Terrell Stafford. From round the block, they also bring a dynamic, energetic, and fertile approach to their new recording, which covers standards and new material.
From the onset, one of the first things to grab the listener's attention is the wall of sound the trio produces. Valega's "d-ruminations" are colorful and deliberate as every part of his kit is skillfully used. Gary Wang's bass is robust and precise with excellent solo spotlights. Saxophonist Anton Denner plays with feeling, maturity, and freedom on alto and soprano saxophones, as well as flute. Their tightness as a unit is clearly evident but what is also clear is their ability to keep the music relative and alive.
A good case in point is observed in their selection and execution of old and new material. On the trio's remake of the 1950 Irvin Berlin classic "The Best Thing For You Would Be Me" the selection opens with a two and a half-minute drum and sax solo spar that would wake up the dead. The bass enters the fray swinging with the melody as the drum and sax skillfully give way to a closing and purposeful bass solo.
On Valega's "Long and Wrong" the composition starts with a funky bass and drum line. Denner provides soulful and probing soloing as the melody morphs into a power swing tempo with the rhythm section supporting the transition, which smoothly changes back to its original rhythm.
The trio's depth of material covers selections by Billy Strayhorn's "Blood Count," Andrew Hill's "Black Fire," and a beautiful rendition of Michel LeGrand's "You Must Believe in Spring" which features impressive bowing by Wang and Denner on flute. Valega's trio is to be commended for the quality, seriousness, and performance on this classy recording. This attitude is aptly expressed in their liner quote by anthropologist Margaret Mead: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful and committed people can change the world."
Or in this case, produce fine music.
Visit Consilience on the web.
Personnel: Vinson Valega - Drums
Anton Denner - Alto and Soprano Saxophones, Flute
Gary Wang - Bass