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Album Review

Doruzka/Wylezol/Ballard: Andromeda's Mystery

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Doruzka/Wylezol/Ballard: Andromeda's Mystery
Drummer Jeff Ballard has kept himself busy and productive while his long-time collaborator, pianist/composer Brad Mehldau, has been engaged in projects other than the trio in which they share membership. Ballard lent his finely-honed percussion technique and instinctive empathy as a musician to the Fabian Willman Trio's Balance (CYH Records, 2022) as well as appearing on two tracks for Ant Law and Alex Hitchcock's Same Moon Same World (Outside In Music, 2022).

Now the one-time tourmate of icon Ray Charles (and creative partner with the late Chick Corea and Pat Metheny, among others) contributes his sensitive rhythmic skills to another trio. This one with guitarist David Doruzka and keyboardist Piotr Wyleżol is far removed from the straightforward likes of the aforementioned Willman set, but it is no less distinctive, due in no small part to Ballard's presence.

The master rhythmatist's unique ability to merely suggest a pattern that resonates throughout a performance is indispensable to music as atmospheric as that which comprises Andromeda's Mystery. It is a gesture of combined humility and magnanimity that Ballard participated in this (a single six-hour session) recording after just the first performance by the threesome for Czech television. Attaching the cachet of his name not only elevates the profile of the project, but his playing can also provide a gateway into absorption of these heady sounds.

And that's not even to mention his generosity in chipping in a composition of his own: perhaps not so coincidentally, the tune is titled "Lone." As has always been the case with his musicianship, no matter the context, on a number like "Chorale In Memory of Tomasz Stanko and Edward Vesala," Jeff Ballard's drum work here is never intrusive no matter how mobile he becomes around his kit.

The absence of any bass in this instrumental lineup thus becomes a moot point, even as the melodic and rhythmic nuances of the material and the musicianship are admirable and memorable in and of themselves. Yet those elements supplied by Doruzka and Wylezol also provide an outline for Ballard to follow and elaborate upon: he contours his own patterns to complement theirs in tracks such as "Murky Waters."

The three savvy musicians would appear to imbue something akin to magnetic attraction into their instruments on cuts like "Sweet Farewell" and "All My Tomorrows"—the emotional undercurrent of those numbers may be the source of that force—but there's also the enrapturing likes of "From The Farthest Sky to the Deepest Sea" and the dream-like air conjured largely through the use of Wylezol's Fender Rhodes on "No Electricity" (titular leader Doruzka never calls attention to himself or his guitaring here).

Humility and magnanimity earmark the fifty-seven minutes of unusual ingenuity on Andromeda's Mystery. In turns bracing and entrancing, it's the work of musicians with sufficient je ne sais quoi to recognize their chemistry, then maximize it with utter panache.

Track Listing

From the Farthest Sky to the Deepest Sea; No Electricity; Sweet Farewell; All My Tomorrows; Lone; Andromeda's Mystery; Chorale (In Memory of Tomas Stanko and Edward Vesala); Murky Waters.

Personnel

David Doruzka: guitar; Piotr Wyleżol: keyboards; Jeff Ballard: drums.

Album information

Title: Andromeda's Mystery | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Bivak Records

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