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Jenny Maybee/Nick Phillips: Haiku

Dan Bilawsky By

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Trumpeter Nick Phillips established himself as a great believer in the power of toned-down art when he released the attractively mellow Moment To Moment (Self Produced, 2014) with pianist Cava Menzies. That album retained a magically hushed aura from start to finish, showing Phillips to be a less-is-more artist focused on tracing the curves of a song and setting the mood with his economical trumpet work. Haiku, an album that shines a spotlight on the newly established partnership between Phillips and pianist-vocalist Jenny Maybee, charms in similar fashion, holding up temperance as its greatest virtue.

While Moment To Moment and Haiku prove to be perfect companion pieces, they have their notable differences beyond specific personnel. The former was an instrumental outing that was dominated by covers and delivered by a quartet. This one is a trio date that focuses largely on material penned by Phillips and/or Maybee. The majority of the material features Maybee's vocals, but instrumental interplay remains key in every piece.

The album opens with the title track and "You"—two pieces that Phillips co-wrote with songwriter Cliff Goldmacher. "Haiku" serves as a perfect scene-setter, speaking with a poetic sense of mystery and yearning. "You," which also appeared on Moment To Moment, is a slice of dispirited beauty. Elegiac tones hover over much of the material that follows, but there are exceptions. "Blue Monk," for example, finds Maybee, Phillips, and bassist Paul Eastburn toying with the familiar before settling into an easygoing take on this Thelonious Monk classic. It's the first of four instrumental pieces on the album, and it turns out to the most casual of the bunch. The rest—the brief "Autumn Moon," the tender "Winter Butterflies," and the curious "Idyll Surreal"—wouldn't be totally out of place on an ECM record, as thoughtfully curious piano, full-bodied bass, and warm-toned trumpet embrace the art of unhurried exploration.

Haiku has no jagged edges, no bluster and bravado, and no athletic feats to speak of. It's an album that values heart over head and beauty over brawn, pointing to the fact that Nick Phillips has found an artistic soul mate in Jenny Maybee.

Track Listing: Haiku; You; Interstellar; The Meaning Of The Blues; Blue Monk; The Setting Sun; Autumn Moon; Winter Butterflies; Heaven; Idyll Surreal; Now And Then.

Personnel: Jenny Maybee: piano, vocals (1-4, 6, 9, 11); Nick Phillips: trumpet; Paul Eastburn: bass.

Title: Haiku | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Nick Phillips Music

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