Remember the great groups in jazz who use their musical instruments like an uncharted form of speech, using rhythm and fortissimo movements to speak to each other instead of catering to an audience? With Innocence of Youth, the Xavier Davis Trio teaches a lesson in "sayin' somethin'" with music. What do they say? How about this: listen. Or, don't interrupt. From the classical music influences that open the first track, "The Message," to the bouncing cadence of the humorously-titled "Milk With a Koolaid Chaser," this is that rare mix of the alive and the controlled.
The assembling of group leader Xavier Davis on piano, Brandon Owens on bass and E.J. Strickland on drums produces over an hour of truly good music that has a freedom of exploration prominent in the finest contemporary artists. These guys all shine. There is passion and feeling in "Bell," in which the group riddles hints of "cool jazz" throughout a rush of Strickland's vibrant drumming (keep an eye on this guy), Davis's complex piano playing and Owens's understated bass backbone, and, like many takes, the group brings that energy down to a calm purr in closing notes. Much of the work here is original, too, and the group takes work like Miles Davis's "Milestones" injects their own flavor into it. As a leader, Davis has hints of Dave Grusin and Vince Guaraldi; indeed, bits of the songs here could be played against those old "Peanuts" cartoons - and that's high praise.
As the title (and final track name) of the album suggests, there's room for humor to some of the tunes, too, including "Tall Struttin', in which the simplicity of the beat and note choices imprints a grin on your face. "Untamed Land" starts off pretty tame, but it turns out to be a wicked joke by the trio when the piano, drums and bass cut loose, sending up how tame indeed contemporary jazz can be - and how exciting when it jumps around and dances.
Keep talking, boys.
Track Listing: The Message (intro) (2:11)
The Message (3:39)
Milk With A Koolaid Chaser (6:48)
Untamed Land (7:29)
Tall Struttin' (6:59)
Amy's Presence (9:19)
The Day Will Come (6:56)
Innocence of Youth (5:50)
Personnel: Xaiver Davis (piano)
Brandon Owens (bass)
E.J. Strickland (drums)