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TRIAD with Dominick Farinacci, Christian Tamburr and Michael Ward-Bergeman at The Jazz Corner

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TRIAD with Dominick Farinacci, Christian Tamburr and Michael Ward-Bergeman
The Jazz Corner
Hilton Head Island, SC
May 24, 2024

It was a Memorial Day weekend to remember. Like you, we honored veterans, welcomed back the summer season, and had some fun on an extra day off. Christian Tamburr, Dominick Farinacci and Michael Ward-Bergeman debuted their co-led ensemble TRIAD and their eponymous new album at The Jazz Corner on Hilton Head Island, SC. As the host of a radio show that features the vibraphone, I've been following Tamburr's steady ascent as a vibes player for the past 15 years. He also plays the marimba with equal finesse, and the piano like it is his best pal. He's been musical director for vocalists Julio Iglesias and Clint Holmes. In the 25 years The Jazz Corner has been going strong, Tamburr has regularly performed for 24 of them, enjoying a warm relationship with owners Bob and Lois Masteller.

In his affable asides to the audience, Tamburr laughingly recounts the difficulty in naming the new group. After all these months, he explains, Triad is the best the three of us could come up with—as if it's such an ordinary choice. Actually, TRIAD is an excellent title. Like the three-legged stool—it needs all three legs to stand. And like a triangle where each of the three edges carries equal weight, they flex from an equilateral triangle to a scalene, where none of the sides are equal, where each solo is supported more or less by the other two. Who knew I'd be depending on geometry in a jazz review?

Trumpeter Dominick Farinacci and Tamburr have played together for some 15 years. Their onstage relationship exudes warmth, friendship and total respect. On "Libertango," the composition of Argentinian Astor Piazzolla, Farinacci's trumpet is so clear and sharp that it sends chills down one's spine. Tamburr on vibraphone and marimba hovers lightly in and out like an apparition as Michael Ward-Bergeman pulsates the accordion in a way I've never heard before. Ward-Bergeman squarely occupies the third angle of Triad with his own New Orleans flavor, classical training and world influences with what's now called a hyper-accordion. He designed an acoustic accordion that is both true to its nature and more nuanced than expected. When I suggested to Ward-Bergeman that, like Toots Thielemans establishing the harmonica in jazz, he may well be bringing the accordion inadvertently into mainstream jazz. His reply? A laugh and "I don't know where I'm bringing it." Only time will tell.

Each of the three has contributed a track to TRIAD that they shared with TJC audience. Ward-Bergeman and "Federal," a tribute to the people of Federal, Argentina who left their mark on him musically. At times the instrument shimmers under the layers set down by Tamburr and Farinacci, at others you might swear you were hearing a violin. Farinacci's "A Prayer for You" written for his mother with immeasurable tenderness; Tamburr's "La Lucha Dura," (The Hard Fight), reincarnated from his 2015 album People Talk. Then there's the track they wrote together, the bluesy "Interlude." When asked about the arrangements, Tamburr described that, "In most cases we arranged everything together specifically for this instrumentation." The album includes percussionist Jamey Haddad and vocalist Shenel Jones who lets loose on Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put A Spell On You," a ten-minute version of the traditional "St James Infirmary Blues," and a surprising arrangement of pop singer John Mayer's "Stop This Train."

Whether we classify TRIAD as world music, global, international, or something else altogether, the intention is to distance themselves from the jazz label. It doesn't swing, Duke, it throbs. Together these three take us to Europe, to South and North America, culling their influences and blending them into a performance that is cohesive, worldly and unusual, all the while sounding familiar. The music is at times exhilarating or ethereal.

The Jazz Corner audience, typically a mix of locals and vacationers, old and young, jazz lovers and neophytes, was enthusiastic for the trio's new format. If this were a test for the viability of TRIAD, it would score highly with these listeners, myself included.

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