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Derel Monteith, Trio and Solo

Geno Thackara By

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Derel Monteith Trio
Quantity of Life
Self Produced
2019

The title phrase isn't quite the obvious one—isn't quality of life usually supposed to be the main thing?—but not to worry here, as Quantity of Life shows the Derel Monteith Trio offering plenty of both. The recording serves as an answer to one modern sage's famous question: "Well, how did I get here?" In the Illinois pianist's case, there were decades of work and study to build on when he formed this particular trio to feature his own music in 2015. Their first recording reflects his roots in the worlds of jazz, rock and roll, Americana, fusion and others, threaded throughout all the sessions and performances that have led him to this spot, all happily crossing paths with a slant toward the melodic and colorful.

Monteith capers most appealingly across the keys while the rhythm section pick their spots for splashes and beats. The simply- named "Folk Song" rolls merrily along with rustic hilly charm, while "Spirit & Solidarity" gives Andy Crawford space for a cheery bass solo among some particularly catchy lines. Even when the title track shades the session with its most thoughtful emotional tones, the inevitable sadness still carries a streak of something hopeful; in the end they close with a dash of urban craziness followed by a piece of warm heartland gospel. It's a lot to pack into less than an hour, but the result does indeed show an impressive quantity of life and experience behind it.

Derel Monteith
Connemara
Self Produced
2019

Monteith was apparently feeling restless in and around the Quantity session, and not a bad thing either, since it resulted in this happy accident (his own term) to complement and expand on it. This freeform side jaunt finds him rambling down his own side trail in a mood both thoughtful and playful. For a brisk and stimulating 37 minutes, he doesn't play in patterns so much as roam between them, spinning out odd melodies and motifs with no need to worry about whether anyone else is following along.

Connemara's handful of improvisations rise, fall and tumble as randomly natural as the hills they're named after. "Rainbow Symphony Revisited" crosses the feel of a child's tune with some Keith Jarrett-like semi-angularity; the title track finds time for wild sprints around the scales, a slow meditative wind-down and a drift into ponderous rumbles. The solo performance is definitely more adventurous and challenging than its group counterpart, though Monteith's spread of styles and elements makes a continually fascinating common thread through both. Fun and hummable or a little more obtuse, they're two rich sides of an impressively smart coin.

Tracks and Personnel

Quantity of Life

Tracks: Trash Talk; Folk Song; Spirit & Solidarity; Quantity of Life; Upper West Side; In My Humble Opinion; Innocence; Downtown Creep; Taste & See.

Personnel: Derel Monteith: piano; Andy Crawford: bass; Jason Brannon: drums.

Connemara

Tracks: Dovecote; Connemara; Rise & Repeat; Rainbow Symphony Revisited; Where Old Men Gather.

Personnel: Derel Monteith: piano.
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