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Dan Cavanagh Trio: The Heart of the Geyser (2012)

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Dan Cavanagh Trio: The Heart of the Geyser How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

There's no arguing that the best of the best in the piano trio field comes from the longterm units: on the younger end of the spectrum there's Brad Mehldau
Brad Mehldau
Brad Mehldau
b.1970
piano
's group with bassist Larry Grenadier
Larry Grenadier
Larry Grenadier
b.1966
bass
and drummer Jeff Ballard
Jeff Ballard
Jeff Ballard
b.1963
drums
, who replaced his long term predecessor in that chair, Jorge Rossy
Jorge Rossy
Jorge Rossy

drums
; and, of course, on the legendary end, there's Keith Jarrett
Keith Jarrett
Keith Jarrett
b.1945
piano
's Standards Trio, with bassist Gary Peacock
Gary Peacock
Gary Peacock
b.1935
bass
and drummer Jack DeJohnette
Jack DeJohnette
Jack DeJohnette
b.1942
drums
, who have been honing their artistry in the piano trio endeavor for nearly thirty years.

But there are the spontaneous one-off recordings and just-becoming-established groups that can produce knockout efforts without the benefit of years of sharpening the group voice. On the "one-off" side there's Boneyard (Origin Records, 2007), by Jim McNeely
Jim McNeely
Jim McNeely
b.1949
composer/conductor
, Kelly Sill and Joel Spencer; or the surprising talent of relative newcomer Greg Reitan
Greg Reitan
Greg Reitan

piano
on Some Other Time (Sunnyside Records, 2009).

Pianist Dan Cavanagh
Dan Cavanagh
Dan Cavanagh
b.1978
composer/conductor
led the Jazz Emporium Big Band on his superb OA2 Records debut, Pulse ( 2008). For this sophomore outing with the label he's reduced the pallet to the piano trio for a disc that fits, probably, into the "one-off" category, and definitely into the "relative newcomer group" that, like Reitan's trio debut, has produced a surprisingly fine set of sounds without a long-established track record.

The set of seven Cavanagh originals and three covers—Chick Corea
Chick Corea
Chick Corea
b.1941
piano
's "Matrix" and Frederick Chopin's "Prelude No. 4 in E Minor" and the traditional "Londonderry Air"—opens with the pianist's "Josephine," an ode to his daughter that features a craggy Mehldau-like rhythmic thread, playful and fluid trio interplay and an endearing melodic simplicity-abstraction dynamic.

There is a sense of a high level of improvisation within the frameworks of these tunes. Cavanagh's exquisite touch is on display on "Square One," a song given bounce and pop by drummer Joe McCarthy and bassist Linda Oh
Linda Oh
Linda Oh

bass
's ringing notes. "Bilder," clocking in at twelve-and-a-half minutes, is the disc's longest and perhaps loveliest piece—an urgent, in-the-moment example of what a first-rate piano trio can do when it taps into the flow of spontaneous three-way creativity, with Oh and McCarthy driving the music forward without a backwards glance.

Like Mehldau's music, Cavanagh's sound has a cerebral and sophisticated quality while remaining highly engaging, with some earthy shades brought in by his trio mates. On "Dark Ivory Tower" Oh's sharp and succinct solo, and her accompaniment throughout, acts as a foundation for Cavanagh's classically-informed piano, and his subtle and gorgeous touch. "Uncertainty" captures a tentative but hopeful mood with a melody that proceeds in fits and starts, while "The Good Life," opening with an intricate drum interlude, gives off a vibe of tranquility and contentment.

Cavanagh has produced one very good big band recording. Like Jim McNeely, his large ensemble may absorb the majority of his artistic life, but he shows, with The Heart of the Geyser, that he can put together a very simpatico piano trio for an inspired recording.

Track Listing: Josephine; Square One; Bilder; Matrix; Prelude No. 4 in E Minor; Dark Ivory Tower; Spills; Uncertainty; The Good Life; Londonderry Air.

Personnel: Dan Cavanagh: piano; Linda Oh: bass; Joe McCarthy: drums.

Record Label: OA2 Records

Style: Big Band


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