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

Year Released: 2003 | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


comments powered by Disqus

Shop

CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles

More Articles

Read The Big Wig CD/LP/Track Review The Big Wig
by Ian Patterson
Published: May 24, 2017
Read The Dreamer Is the Dream CD/LP/Track Review The Dreamer Is the Dream
by Mark Sullivan
Published: May 24, 2017
Read Bill Evans – Another Time: The Hilversum Concert CD/LP/Track Review Bill Evans – Another Time: The Hilversum Concert
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: May 24, 2017
Read The Failure of Words CD/LP/Track Review The Failure of Words
by Glenn Astarita
Published: May 24, 2017
Read Groove Dreams CD/LP/Track Review Groove Dreams
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: May 23, 2017
Read Kami Fusen CD/LP/Track Review Kami Fusen
by Glenn Astarita
Published: May 23, 2017
Read "Piano Song" CD/LP/Track Review Piano Song
by Matthew Aquiline
Published: January 19, 2017
Read "Revelation" CD/LP/Track Review Revelation
by Jack Bowers
Published: August 16, 2016
Read "Westering Home" CD/LP/Track Review Westering Home
by Roger Farbey
Published: June 7, 2016
Read "Lionsong" CD/LP/Track Review Lionsong
by David A. Orthmann
Published: April 18, 2017
Read "Reciprocity" CD/LP/Track Review Reciprocity
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: August 15, 2016
Read "Prague After Dark" CD/LP/Track Review Prague After Dark
by Jack Bowers
Published: March 16, 2017

Why wait?

Support All About Jazz and we'll deliver exclusive content, hide ads, hide slide-outs, and provide read access to our future articles.

Buy it!