3Play+ are a quartet, featuring trumpeter Phil Grenadier, pianist Josh Rosen, bassist Lello Molinari and drummer Marcello Pellitteri. Originally a trio, the band became 3Play+ with the addition of Grenadier; presumably the idea of calling the band 4Play was dismissed at an early stage. On the group's debut, American Waltz, it is joined on some tracks by guitarist Mick Goodrick and tenor saxophonist George Garzone.
Rosen and Molinari are both professors at Boston's Berklee College of Music. Pianist Rosen wrote all but one of the album's eight tracks, demonstrating both the range of his musical influences and his flexibility as a composer.
The album's eponymous opening track is a gentle ¾ time tune that takes its inspiration from the roots of American folk music, and is reminiscent of bands like Hem. Rosen's introduction is beautiful, setting the scene for Goodrick, Grenadier and Molinari to enter one at a time and gradually build up the tune's layers until Grenadier brings the melody back in to close the piece. Garzone takes the central role on "Buttah," a tune inspired by Sonny Rollins' classic "Oleo" that is driven by Pellitteri's funky drumming as Garzone plays a fluid solo.
"How Do I Know What I Don't Know?" is the album's most beautiful and immediate tune. Grenadier's muted trumpet playing, a strength on the whole CD, is especially effective here. The melody line seems to demand a lyricwith the right words this could become a popular addition to the jazz songbook. "Happy Cramping" is a group composition which opens with a fast, bop-flavored solo from Grenadier. Molinari and Pellitteri soon add a tight rhythmic underpinning that keeps the tune together as Rosen takes over from Grenadier and the piece becomes more free-form.
The closing "Bulletrain" is a 20-minute opus which seems to have left the musical roots displayed on "American Waltz" far behind until, that is, about nine minutes in, when the free-form playing blends almost seamlessly into a clearly recognizable blues. Goodrick's guitar part is a key element, whether he's playing solo or in unison with Grenadier.
American Waltz showcases a fine set of tunes, played with skill and enthusiasm by a talented and innovative set of musicians.
American Waltz: Buttah; Happy Cramping; How Do I Know What I Don
Phil Grenadier: trumpet; Josh Rosen: piano; Lello Molinari: bass; Marcello Pellitteri: drums; Mick Goodrick: guitar; George Garzone: tenor saxophone.
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