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If music is indeed the 'universal language,' then that notion certainly seems to explain the dynamic chemistry heard on the new album from MEM3a trio made up of an American (pianist Michael Cabe), an Australian (bassist Mark Lau) and a Canadian (drummer Ernesto Cervini). All three musicians have other gigs going on, but that shouldn't imply a loose, laid-back jam session. On the contrary, Pennsylvania Grey contains nine intriguing original compositions, along with a swinging rendition of the traditional "Abide With Me."
That light, gospel-infused exercise serves as the most straight-ahead track on the album, since the rest cover an expansive palette of sounds, from modal to melancholy. Since the disc's overall tone falls more in line with the latter, this isn't likely the disc you'll hear playing at your nearest trendy wine bar. However, Pennsylvania Grey does indeed have its time and place to be truly appreciated; one might call it the perfect musical companion to a lazy morning spent reading the Sunday Times. Some of the songs lean towards a somewhat brooding sound, especially on the title track, an intense Cabe-penned tune propelled by a single left-hand chord and a pounding beat.
MEM3 shine when they attempt the tunes you might actually hear in the aforementioned trendy wine bar. Two Cervini compositions are the considerably more up-tempo selections: "Tragic Interruption" and "Cerebrau." Bill Evans fans will dig the former, which recalls "RE: Person I Knew" from the 1962 album Moonbeams, largely due to Cervini's nimble cymbal and brushwork. The latter is a Cabe showcase, appealing to fans of the mid to late '60s post-bop of McCoy Tyner and Herbie Hancock and here Cabe more than deserves such weighty comparisons.
Hopefully the group will continue to pay attention to this little 'side project,' since the musicians are clearly inspired and willing to investigate all aspects of the piano jazz spectrum in a way that will definitely enhance your Sunday Times experience!
Track Listing: Skydrol; Tragic Interruption; Pennsylvania Grey; The Voice; Pending; Cerebrau; Silence The Melting Light; Thankfulness; Mashishi; Abide With Me.
Personnel: Michael Cabe: piano; Mark Lau: bass; Ernesto Cervini: drums.