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3x3: Piano Trios: July 2022

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Florian Hoefner Trio
Desert Bloom
Alma Records
2022

If the title of First Spring appropriately represented the Florian Hoefner Trio's first emergence, Desert Bloom is the picture of a colorful summer to follow—warmer, more vibrant, and at the same time more settled. As on their debut, the trio shows off an impressively honed interplay and an eagerness to mix their jazzy leanings with some pretty different musical spheres. This time Hoefner takes his compositional cues from the post-minimalist realm of Philip Glass and Nico Muhly. The pieces grow into shapes more organic than composed, allowing the performances to wander from quiet beauty to some almost rock-and-roll-worthy flailing and back with surprising smoothness.

Even at the crashing moments, though, this trio is more deliberate than wild. Their laser-focused interplay keeps them keenly aware of how and where they're drifting. When they canter more briskly, it's still done with each note and hit chosen with care. There's an affability to Hoefner's playing that keeps things feeling warm and pleasant, however much the trio might slow down and breathe. Nick Fraser colors with his kit's percussive sounds as much as he keeps a groove at the drums, while Andrew Downing often bows his bass to add some beautiful and elusive droning tones to the mix. In terms of both song structures and sound textures, this is a work beautifully exotic and still always approachable.

Majamisty TriO
Wind Rose
Self Produced
2022

This is a group very much toward the classy end of the scale, although that doesn't mean they lack their own sense of fun. Majamisty TriO's variety of chamber jazz never leans too far one way or another; the jazz half makes for some dynamic grooves and swells, while their classical side provides a central beauty and elegance that's never lost in the playfulness. Maja Alvanović's feel for the keys always has a certain flowy dreaminess to it, even when the rhythm players kick into high gear.

The tropical daydream of "Passarola" provides one of the brightest moments here, while the hardest-driving crescendo gives a sluggish U2 ballad a dynamic zest the original never had. Wind Rose benefits from guest spots (vocal and bass clarinet) that add just a little more formal refinement, yet a little more skipping and jumping never seems to be far away. The pieces are dreamy meditations as much as actual compositions; however much they drift from loud to quiet, they do it naturally with a a gentle rise and fall that turns the whole set into one tastefully effusive delight.



Tyshawn Sorey
Mesmerism
Yeros7 Music
2022

In part, Mesmerism is Tyshawn Sorey pushing back against, as he puts it, "having been typecast as a so-called avant-gardist for nearly two decades." While the drummer has indeed done his share of bushwhacking into wild territory, it's also clear that it hasn't lessened his connection to the more familiar roots of jazz and the Great American Songbook. Funny enough, it's something of an oddity for him to do what most jazz players would consider normal: assemble a well-chosen band that's never performed together, throw in a handful of familiar standards and a little (very little) rehearsing time, and see what happens.

In this case, what happens is a beguiling mix of familiar and new. Matt Brewer has plucked his bass alongside Sorey enough to develop a deep intuition for his malleable rhythms. The pair sound effortless as they bump and twine their way through , keeping the groove moving while always messing around with the moving parts. Aaron Diehl floats over them while make sure there's a melodic directness to keep any listeners easily grounded.

Though Diehl has no playing history with the others, there's enough mutual admiration and fluid intuition to have them all flowing as a unit. Sorey's innate trickiness does keep coming out, often playfully shifting the rhythms around without breaking the feel of the groove, sometimes keeping a piece's tonality in flux or loosely leaving the key unstated so the actual form feels more amorphous than it is. In between, a gorgeous "Autumn Leaves" floats for half its running time with barely any drums at all, and Duke Ellington's "REM Blues" closes things out with a most charming simplicity. Anyone packing this much variety into the length of an LP should be able to put any worries about typecasting to bed once and for all.

Tracks and Personnel

Desert Bloom

Tracks: Between the Lines; Desert Bloom; Neptune; Shifting Baseline Syndrome; Shelter; It's All Part of the Plan; The Day Everything Stopped; The End of the Tunnel; Last More Time.

Personnel: Florian Hoefner: piano; Andrew Downing: bass; Nick Fraser: drums.

Wind Rose

Tracks: The City of Jewels; Passarola; Echoes; Green Room; With or Without You; My Father's New Guitar; Long Embrace; Wind Rose.

Personnel: Maja Alvanović: piano; Ervin Malina: double bass; Lav Kovač: drums; Aneta George: vocals (3, 6-8); Ulrich Dreschsler: bass clarinet, basset horn (3, 6-8).

Mesmerism

Tracks: Enchantment; Detour Ahead; Autumn Leaves; From Time to Time; Two Over One; REM Blues.

Personnel: Tyshawn Sorey: drums; Aaron Diehl: piano; Matt Brewer: bass.

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