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Guitar Trios x 5


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Several recent releases provide evidence that the classic guitar trio (guitar, bass and drums) is alive and well, even in the midst of a pandemic. It remains a format with a broad array of stylistic possibilities. As it happens, none of these groups are from North America, but they include several from European countries and one from South America.

Red Gazelle Trio
In The Midst Of It All
Self Produced

Red Gazelle Trio is a modern jazz trio based in Copenhagen with guitarist/composer Kristoffer Vejslev Dyssegaard, double bassist/composer Peter Price and drummer Simon Forchhammer. The trio was founded in 2014: this album is the sequel to their debut Udkig (Self Produced, 2018). It is a contemporary take on the trio format, with Vejslev favoring a clean guitar sound (think Bill Frisell, for example), and melodic compositions form Vejslev and Price. "Kaleidoskop" opens the album with a loping groove, while "Frantically Mellow" lives up to its title with a slightly uneasy rubato feel. "Stay Crispy" has an almost martial drum part, also featuring crispy guitar and a fine bass solo. The set concludes with two pieces written during lock down. "Seclusion" has an almost oppressive atmosphere of being alone with circular thoughts, while "Introspection Unlimited" offers a gentle rubato air of contemplation.

Jakub Żołubak Trio
Live at Jazzstate
Self Produced

The Jakub Zolubak Trio hails from Poland. For their debut album they recorded live at the SPATiF club in Warsaw as part of the JazzState series. Guitarist/composer Żołubak is accompanied by double bassist Radek Łukaszewicz and drummer Patrycja Wybrańczyk. Opener "Bolivian Water" begins with looped electronic guitar sounds reminiscent of Bill Frisell or Jakob Bro; the Frisell connection is made clear by the inclusion of his tune "Small Town," the only cover on the album. Originally recorded on Disfarmer (Nonesuch Records, 2009), the trio's thoughtful reading of it leads right into "Solar Energy," which has a similar pastoral feel in the beginning but morphs into something more abstract and chaotic by the end. "It's Okay to Panic" has more of an air of reassurance than panic (certainly not a bad thing in these times), while "Thin Ice" includes a surprising vocal chorus at the climax. After the Americana finale of "Billish" (another Frisell reference?) we finally hear the enthusiastic live audience.

Fabrizio Savino Trio
The Rising Sun
Inner Urge Records

Italian guitarist Fabrizio Savino leads a trio with double bassist Luca Alemanno and drummer Sebastian Merk. The compositions are mainly by the leader, with a couple of jazz standards in the mix. The title tune opens the set, a rhapsodic rubato exercise. "Rebirth" begins with a hypnotic arpeggiated chord sequence before an insistent double bass ostinato gives Savino support for a fleet, over-driven guitar solo. "Skylark" is the first of the standards: the trio takes it at a moderate tempo, giving it a feel much like the previous originals. "April in Paris" receives much the same treatment: still, it is fun to hear the trio navigate these harmonies (and Alemanno's lyrical double bass solo) . "Her Fears" is the big ballad of the set, a lovely compliment to the standards, while "So Close and Yet So Far" follows in a similar vein, but with some string sweetening. Drummer Merk opens "Waltz for Sabri" with an unaccompanied drum solo before the band launches into the familiar waltz rhythm, and the set closes with an adventurous alternate take of the title tune.

S.E.V. Trio
Far from Close
Anelia Records

S.E.V. Trio is a collaboration between three Greek musicians, and takes its name from the initials of their last names. Guitarist/composer Tassos Spiliotopoulos, bassist/composer Michael Evdemon and drummer Panos Vassilopoulos came together for this debut album. They started working together during the pandemic, initially recording video covers of jazz fusion music. Sensing a musical bond, they went on to create this album of original music. The sound is the most aligned to classic electric jazz fusion of all the albums in this survey, which is not to say that the band lacks its own sonic signature. "Clarity" opens the set with chiming clean guitar sounds (recalling someone like Pat Metheny), also including melodic electric bass solos: it is a very conversational trio. "Feral Dance" doesn't actually sound that feral, but it has great energy, courtesy of an especially liquid guitar solo and a driving drum part. True to its title, "The Search Within" has a contemplative air, the closest thing to a ballad here. "Fast Peter" is also true to its title, in this case a fast swing groove. Finally, "The Blues" closes the album just as promised, with a 6/8 fusion-colored blues.

De la Cruz -Sampaoli -Flores Catino
ears&eyes Records

This Argentinian trio was formed in 2020 with guitarist/composer Gastón de la Cruz, double and electric bassist Valentino Sampaoli and drummer/percussionist Nahuel Flores Catino. Onirica is the sequel to their debut album Correspondencia (Discos ICM, 2020). Their sound is generally much freer than the preceding groups in this survey. "N1" begins the proceedings with a bracing blast of electric noise, but immediately scales back to a calmer more acoustic sound for "Bosque," which initially features double bass. "La Culpa" is built on a hypnotic percussion ostinato, with arco double bass and exploratory guitar, eventually finding a dark atmosphere with pizzicato bass and loud, declamatory guitar. "N2" builds up to full tilt rock before exploring more textural, rubato spaces. "Labios" returns to a more traditional trio format, including a lyrical theme. Over-driven guitar with echo provides dynamic contrast. The title tune begins freely, with guitar and guest José Marín's soprano saxophone weaving lines around each other before coming together for the theme. By then guest Ornella Contreras' piano has entered almost unobtrusively, and after a fierce saxophone solo he gets the spotlight, introducing a new (more sedate) section. In fact the guests receive all of the solo space, closing out the album on a very different group sound from the way it began.

Tracks and Personnel

In The Midst Of It All

Tracks: Kaleidoskop; Over-The-Counterpoint; Frantically Mellow; Stay Crispy; Stargazing; East West; Seclusion; Introspection Unlimited.

Personnel: Kristoffer Vejslev: guitar; Peter Price: bass; Simon Forchhammer: drums.

Live at Jazzstate

Tracks: Bolivian Water; Small Town; Solar Energy; In Forests We Trust; It's Okay to Panic; Rock Dust vs. Carbon Dioxide; Thin Ice; Billish.

Personnel: Jakub Żołubak: guitar, compositions; Radek Łukaszewicz: double bass, Patrycja Wybrańczyk: drums.

The Rising Sun

Tracks: The Rising Sun; Rebirth; Skylark; Wisdom; Her Fears; So Close and Yet So Far; April in Paris; The Winter Will Become spring; No Ifs, Ands, or Buts; Waltz for Sabri; The Rising Sun (Alt. Take).

Personnel: Fabrizio Savino: guitar; Luca Alemanno: double bass; Sebastian Merk: drums.

Far from Close

Clarity; Second Chance; Feral Dance; Seven Wishes; The Search Within; Fast Peter; Sweet Exposure; The Blues.

Personnel: Tassos Spiliotopoulos: guitar, composition; Michael Evdemon: bass, composition; Panos Vassilopoulos: drums.


Tracks: N1; Bosque; La Culpa; N2; Labios; Onírica.

Personnel: Gastón de la Cruz: guitar, composition; Valentino Sampaoli: double bass, electric bass; Nahuel Flores Catino: drums, percussion; José Marín: soprano saxophone (6); Ornella Contreras: piano (6).

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