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"Little melodies come to me when I'm walking." So says drummer/percussionist/composer Sheryl Mebane, the leader of the San Francisco bay area-based Tangria Jazz Group. And that's probably as good a description of the mystery of the creative process as you'll hear.
Mebane's vision, on Mebane's Eleven, focuses in on some of those unfailingly engaging melodies. The band is a piano trio, with a lot of sparklepianist Simon Rochester brightens the sound up with a good dose of Fender Rhodes along with the acoustic keys. Justin Hellman adds a solid heartbeat on bass; and Mebane rolls through various percussion modes on drums, jembe and vibes.
Those melodies that come to Mebane have a straighforward, energetic quality, a Bill Evans delicacy and prettiness; and the two covers slipped in with Mebane's seven originals, Miles Davis' "Solar" and Eddie Harris' "Freedom Jazz Dance," featured on Davis' Miles Smiles (Columbia, 1966), gives you an idea of the influences.
The disc opens with "Teach Yourself to Live Elsewhere," a tune with a wistful, Bill Evans feeling, a melancholy sound with an insistent rhythmic drive and some creative comping from pianist Rochester behind Hellman's bass solo. "Money Time" slips deeply inward on an extended piano intro that blossoms in the direction of extroversion when Mebane and Hellman come in.
"Warm" features Mebane on jembe, on a tune with a sultry, dark mood; "Ethan's Song" brings in electric violinist Belinda Catalona, adding a folk music quality to a very modern sound.
The last two tunes on the disc are guest artist revisitations of "Money Time" and "Warm," featuring Jason Bringetto on guitar, violinist Catalona again with her mandolin on "Money Time," along with Giotto Harrison on copper pipes and Alex Pasternak on bass for a closing of the show with more of a world music feeling.
Mebane's Eleven offers up a refreshing take on the piano trio format, with the ending guest spot opening the focus up further.
Track Listing: Teach Yourself to Live Elsewhere; Money Time; Warm; Ethan's Song; Solar; Freedom Jazz Dance; Reactions;
Gemini; Breathe Easy; Money Time (with guests); Warm (with guests).