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Chris Lomheim - Michael O'Brien - Jay Epstein: Triage

Friedrich Kunzmann By

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Triage refers to the process of weeding-out, deciding about what gets eliminated, on the one hand, and what stays, on the other. In the context of this album, its title can be interpreted as the process these three musicians have gone through during the course of over twenty years of collaborating, captured on the eleven original compositions on display here. The debut effort by Minnesota-based pianist Chris Lomheim, drummer Jay Epstein and New York-based Michael O'Brien on bass didn't come about in a whiff, but is the result of many years of experience and collective development. In contrast to contemporary trends, this piano trio doesn't try to reinvent the format itself. On the contrary, it builds on the spacious concepts which precursors such as Keith Jarrett or Paul Bley introduced on ECM decades ago, and adds personal notes to the mix.

Things get started in a very straightforward way on the opening "Anniversary"; wide-spread block chords on piano make room for a swinging head, of which the traditional nature recalls classic recordings by Bill Evans. Here and there, a couple of scale-runs through the high frequencies show off Lomheim's exceptional technique as well as the fabulous sound of the piano recording. The following Lomheim originals confirm that he is indeed a musician who holds past achievements in high regard, and find him paying tribute to the Hard-Bop tradition in an accomplished and vigorous manner. Both, "Blue Talisman" and "Even More Than Before," demonstrate modal jazz concepts, in which the band flourishes. Bass solos gracefully swirl around the piano, first plucked, then played with a bow.

In healthy contrast to Lomheim's more harmoniously grand style, O'Brien's compositions demonstrate a cheekier attitude with meticulous melodic shifts and sarcastic motif treatment, as reflected in the titles "Happy Ants" or "At What Price Happiness." The first comes across with humorous ease, while the latter is delivered in a more deconstructed way, creating an intimate setting for all three instruments to question the theme at hand.

Lomheim-penned measures make up the latter third of the album, with the bass-driven "Temple of Truth" being a hard-swinging penultimate piece that gives way to another piano-driven take which is again steeped in tradition, and closes this wholesome affair the way it opened. A sublime recording for any piano trio aficionado!

Track Listing: Anniversary; Blue Talisman; Evan More Than Before; Happy Ants; In The Light; At What Price Happiness; Jim's Theme; Jinx; Wysteria; Temple Of Truth; Living The Happy Dream

Personnel: Chris Lomheim: piano; Michael O'Brien: bass; Jay Epstein: drums

Title: Triage | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Shifting Paradigm Records

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