144

Upper Left Trio: Cycling

Dan McClenaghan By

Sign in to view read count
Upper Left Trio: Cycling It's hard to put the finger on what makes for a successful piano trio set. Some of jazz's bona fide great keyboard players turn in less than inspired efforts, sets that just don't hold the listener's interest for the duration of an hour of music. It's probably the worst critism that can be made of a recording – that it just doesn't hold interest. And the piano trio format can be particularly unforgiving.

And having said that, the other side of the coin is that occasionally you'll come across virtual unknowns, coming at you from out of the blue, who turn in a engaging and delicious set of sounds with just a piano, bass and drums. Such is the case with the Upper Left Trio's Cycling.

Aside from the fact that the musicians – drummer Charlie Doggett, pianist Clay Giberson, and bassist Jeff Leonard – are based in Portland, Oregon, I know nothing of them, except that they've come up with a forward-looking, sit-on-the-edge-of-the-listening-chair set of songs for this set.

So what's it take to do that? What's this trio bring to the table that facinates and engages?

One, the guys all write, always with strong melodies. Two, Doggett, in addition to being a fine timekeeper, is adept at adding a weave of textures without overdoing it. Three, Leonard, on the electric bass here, makes good and subtle use of sustain – making him sound at times almost as though he's bowing an accoustic bass, with a rich dark wash behind the textures. Four, piano man Giberson is a skilled young musician with a constant flow of ideas. For comparison's sake, think Brad Mehldau, with a more outgoing and maybe more urgent approach.

Also – and this is critical – the bass/drum team rides along a notch or two above the accompanist's or supporting role, full-fledged members of the musical team.

Strong melodies are a central strength of Cycling, but oddly (with that thought in mind), my highlight is drummer Doggett's "Simplicate" the song with the most classical, ethereal, brooding feel to it. Another favorite is the spring-in-the-step "Funzies," with a bounce in the melody and some of the best trio interplay on the disc.

These guys are a real find. Just for the sake of argument I'd love to have heard a cover of a progessive rock tune (a la The Bad Plus) from them; but they really don't need it. They all write and play some very fine progressive tunes of their own.

Visit Origin Records at www.origin-records.com .

Track Listing: Fine Line, The Start and the End, Funzies, There's a Spoon in the Sky, Complications, Falling, simplicate, Trillium, Up and Away, Cycling

Personnel: Charlie Doggett--drums; Clay Giberson--piano; Jeff Leonard--drums

Title: Cycling | Year Released: 2003


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Open Book CD/LP/Track Review Open Book
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: August 17, 2017
Read Stolen Moments CD/LP/Track Review Stolen Moments
by Jack Bowers
Published: August 17, 2017
Read Sonder CD/LP/Track Review Sonder
by Troy Dostert
Published: August 17, 2017
Read Putting Off Death CD/LP/Track Review Putting Off Death
by Glenn Astarita
Published: August 17, 2017
Read Albert Mangelsdorff And His Friends CD/LP/Track Review Albert Mangelsdorff And His Friends
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 16, 2017
Read Heaven On Their Minds CD/LP/Track Review Heaven On Their Minds
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: August 16, 2017
Read "Sing House" CD/LP/Track Review Sing House
by Karl Ackermann
Published: July 30, 2017
Read "A Multitude of Angels" CD/LP/Track Review A Multitude of Angels
by Karl Ackermann
Published: November 30, 2016
Read "Cinema Spiral" CD/LP/Track Review Cinema Spiral
by Mark Corroto
Published: August 31, 2016
Read "Potsdamer Platz" CD/LP/Track Review Potsdamer Platz
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: February 3, 2017
Read "In All My Holy Mountain" CD/LP/Track Review In All My Holy Mountain
by Roger Farbey
Published: February 12, 2017
Read "Blue Canvas" CD/LP/Track Review Blue Canvas
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: January 4, 2017

Sponsor: JANA PROJECT | LEARN MORE  

Support our sponsor

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.