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The Wee Trio: Capitol Diner Vol. 2: Animal Style

Mark F. Turner By

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Based loosely in New York, The Wee Trio's origins form a cross-section of the United States, with drummer Jared Schonig from Los Angeles, vibraphonist James Westfall living in New Orleans and bassist Dan Loomis hailing from St. Louis. Notwithstanding that there isn't an abundance of vibraphone-centered recordings such as Joe Locke's For the Love of You (E1 Music, 2010) and Stefon Harris' Urbanus (Concord Music Group, 2009), The Wee Trio holds high the mallet-based banner in good form, showing itself to be one of the most dynamic trios around with Capitol Diner Vol. 2: Animal Style, the follow-up to its critically acclaimed debut, Capitol Diner Vol. 1 (Bionic, 2008).

Conceived, in part, by the trio's experiences on the road, a hip and free styling bravado is reflected in the inquisitive title, Animal Style—inspired by a certain West Coast attitude of die hard surfers and the California-based In-N-Out fast food chain. Like that burger's secret sauce, The Wee's got its own potent flavor, one that combines a heady blend of modernly attuned composition and robust trio symmetry.

The intro and outro grooves of Schonig's "San Fernando" bookend a set of thoughtful compositions. Musically diverse, the trio throws down hip-hopped beats, intensely swinging bop, or poignant vignettes—all with ease. Westfall's blazing mallets create modern visions of Milt Jackson and Lionel Hampton—showmanship, soulfulness, and classically informed, with a remarkable dynamic of touch on "The Oracle" and "White Out."

Loomis' muscular bass is the pliable yet solid ground that centers the diverse changes. His strings exude power in "The Tunnel" and melody in the trio's respectful and illuminating read of Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen's 1947 classic, "But Beautiful." Drummers need love too, and Schonig deserves some for his incredible kit-work throughout—in particular, on the sunny vibe of "Avril 14th," with his percussion-like traps.

There are also some nice surprises. Not just an outstanding vibraphonist, Westfall also adds color via mini-Korg and Vocoder on "Snow Day" and the recording's Superfly centerpiece, "The Mack is Back in Santa Monica," the cousin of "San Fernando Part 1" and "Part 2." Loomis' "Shepard" bristles kinetically in its classical intro and ending, and a no holds barred improvisational center.

Capitol Diner Vol 2 Animal Style is a breath of fresh air from an exciting group that breathes some new life into the often times mundane trio format.

Track Listing: San Fernando Pt 1; The Oracle; White Out; Avril 14th; Wherever You Go, There You Are; The Mack is Back in Santa Monica; Snow Day; The Tunnel; Shepard; But Beautiful; Pin Ball Number Count; San Fernando Pt 2.

Personnel: Jared Schonig: drums; James Westfall: vibraphone, mini-Korg, Vocoder; Dan Loomis: bass.

Title: Capitol Diner Vol. 2: Animal Style | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Bionic Records

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