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Jonathan Gee: Dragonfly

Mark Corroto By

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50 years ago, modern jazz piano trios would barely be recognizable to the majority of their counterparts—except perhaps Bill Evans' trio. Today, cutting-edge jazz trios require interaction between players and expect both drummer and bassist to be more than just disciples. Trio leaders such as Jason Moran, John Escreet, Matthew Shipp all write and perform their music as a three-way conversation. Add to that list, London-based pianist Jonathan Gee.

Gee, a contributor to the UK scene with vibraphonist Orphy Robinson, saxophonist Steve Williamson, singer Claire Martin, and his European trio, finds himself in good company in New York with bassist Joseph Lepore (Greg Osby) and drummer Nasheet Waits (pianists Moran and Orrin Evans, trumpeter Dave Douglas). Dragonfly is comprised of seven originals and one Thelonious Monk tune.

The disc opens with the propulsive "Beyond." Gee's piano runs, chest-bumping against the zealous vigor of Waits attack. This heady music clears the sinuses and opens up the lungs. If it weren't for the amazing communication between players, songs like "Black Ball" would seemed prejudiced and rocky. But, with Lepore's pulse, and he isn't in the business of keeping time, the maelstrom is contained and Gee's message is coherent. In fact, it swings very, very hard.

Like Moran, Gee composes with a sense of both jazz canon and contemporary sounds. He can lift a sweet melody such as "Tortadilla" and transition from a hummed blues melody into bits and pieces of acrobatics. Often, Gee's sleight-of-hand involves the blues. He negotiates a modern sounding "Cream Of Mandarins" with a fleeting passage of blues and two-handed attack, all the while with Waits in full agitation mode. The cross-roads meeting with Lepore is all to service the tune.

The summation of this trio is in Monk's "We See." Gee negotiates the track as if he is taking shorthand—hopping, skipping and jumping as he accelerates across the melody. It's modern, it's Monk, and it's a three-way conversation.

Track Listing: Beyond; Dragonfly; Black Ball; Tortadilla; Cream Of Mandarins; Yellow Ball; We See; Cicada.

Personnel: Jonathan Gee: piano; Joseph Lepore: double bass; Nasheet Wait: drums.

Title: Dragonfly | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: ASC Records

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