Bringing together three of contemporary jazz's young power players, Pascal's Triangle is an energized, adeptly executed endeavor.
All three performers have already proven themselves innovative and exciting musicians in many venues. Here the three meld their individual voices well and take advantage of Le Boeuf's astute compositional talents to deliver eight tunes firmly grounded in today's modern jazz idiom, while harkening back to the long history of jazz trios as a venue for group exploration and musical "conversation." It is interesting that in his explanatory notes, Le Boeuf describes the origin of the project as actually a byproduct of a much more electronic/experimental session that led to this intimate, acoustic result.
Overall, the album's strength is the undeniable clarity of the compositions and the confident precision of each player's delivery. The opening piece "Home in Strange Places" moves with a pleasant disjunction, revolving around a compellingly elegiac melody constructed with a delicate touch by Le Boeuf. Another notable track, "What Your Teacher..." showcases the trio's rhythmic abilities, taking full advantage of drummer Brown's crackling beats and bassist Oh's sure handedness to craft a propulsive, high-energy piece. In apparently deliberate contrast, the following tune "Jesse Holds Louise" slips into a slower tempo, and gives Le Boeuf space to sculpt a tender scene on solo piano.
Throughout, the pieces are so tightly constructed that it never feels as if there is a single unplanned note, giving the whole the distinctive sharpness of an HD photograph so hyper-focused its very accuracy feels unnatural. At times, this leaves the tunes feeling a bit cool to the touch, as if the emotional content is being considered from one step removed. The result provides an intriguingly quiescent tone to the album, despite the rhythmic push and energy Oh and Brown consistently deliver. This dynamic also creates a distinctive type of tension, notable at least for its unusualness.
An undeniably accomplished performance by three of jazz's rising stars, Pascal's Triangleis a sophisticated, fully realized example of modern jazz aesthetics put forward by artists in top form. Assuming the trio partnership continues, it will be interesting to see how they evolve their collective voice.
Home in Strange Places; Variations on A Mood; Song for Ben Van Gelder; What Your Teacher…; Jesse Holds Louise; The Key; Revising a Paste Self; Return to You
Pascal le Boeuf: Piano; Linda Oh: Bass; Justin Brown: drums