In winter 2021, seemingly out of nowhere, pianist and composer Andrew Nixon brought a ray of sunlight to those fortunate enough to happen upon his debut album, the self-produced In Congruence. A review can be read here. A little research revealed that Nixon was a resident of Buffalo, NY, from whose university he had graduated with a master's degree in music theory in 2012. His trio, completed by bassist Ed Croft and drummer Joe Goretti, centred their activities on Buffalo, and had thus remained unnoticed by US national radar, let along the international one.
Three years down the line, much remains unchanged. An attractive vibe of non-metropolitan cottage industry continues to surround Nixon, his trio and its work. In the period between the two albums, it hardly needs saying, uncounted numbers of inferior ones have been hyped from the rooftops by record labels. Musically, the group remains fad free, dealing in classic post-Bill Evans interactive piano trioism, with lyricism and harmonic and rhythmic exploration at the forefront. The liner notes for the new album are, as previously, written by Paul Hofmann, with whom Nixon once studied at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. Like its predecessor, Outside Agitators is self-produced, and well so, with resonant sound and strong presence.
What has evolved since 2021 is the standard of the trio's performance and the quality of Nixon's composing (as on the first album, all the tunes are Nixon originals). Like fine wines left to mature, both have deepened in flavour. The material is, as before, a well-balanced collection: a Thelonious Monk-like blues, a samba, a bossa nova, a brisk waltz, a couple of ballads, a Bill Evans-ian faux show tune. The music has a deceptive simplicity about it and reveals more of itself with repeated listening.
Bottom line: Nixon, Croft and Geretti have struck gold again. Great album title, too.
Outside Agitator; Azul Palida; Frost; 5-4-3; Proximity; Row Row Row; Bittersweet And Lovely; Before I Go.
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Chris May is a senior editor of All About Jazz. He was previously the editor of the pioneering magazine Black Music & Jazz Review, and more recently editor of the style / culture / history magazine Jocks & Nerds.