Trinity is an ambitious affair. It definitely takes some gumption to fashion an album from five originals and works by Leonard Cohen, Stevie Wonder, Van Morrison, and Cahn/Styne and hope that it will all hold together. Oh, and did I mention there is a song in French, too?
Surprisingly, Philadelphia-based vocalist Barbara Montgomery and her main collaborator, Aaron Graves, do a fine job of making such a disparate group of sources sound like they are all of a piece. Montgomery's strong, dark voice is the focal point throughout, and she adds an intriguing air of mystery and sophistication to the tracks. Praise must be given for the decision to tackle two of Cohen's later masterworks. Complex and haunting, "Alexandra Leaving and "1,000 Kisses Deep were amazingly effective even with the bargain basement arrangements and instrumentation they were given on Cohen's 2001 collection Ten New Songs. Montgomery's renditions are aided by her voice, but nearly sabotaged by synthesized keyboards that curdle the performances. Perhaps these songs are to be forever doomed to largely ineffective arrangements.
Morrison's soulful and direct "Crazy Love is given a more successful treatment, with instruments that (mostly) sound like real instruments. An old standby, "I Fall In Love Too Easily, is a bull's-eye. The arrangement is spare and solid, while Montgomery delivers a finely controlled performance that you'd welcome a chance to hear if you ever found yourself drinking to forget.
Trinity must be applauded for its ambition, but it's not a wholly successful album. The music is too often overly synthesized and sterile, nullifying some fine vocal work. Perhaps the next time out a more organic, stripped-down sound would yield better results.
Alexandra Leaving, Little One, If It's Magic, April 14, Avec Le Temp, 1,000 Kisses Deep, Junkman, She Speaks, Between, Crazy Love, I Fall In Love Too Easily, Trinity.
Barbara Montgomery, vocals; Aaron Graves, piano,keyboards, percussion, electric bass; Lee Smith, Steve Beskrone or Cliff Kellum, acoustic bass; Mike Boone, electric bass; Wilby Fletcher, Dan Monaghan, Butch Reed or Jimmy Coleman,drums; Marlon Simon, congas; Doc Gibbs, congas/percussion; Ron Jennings or Monette Sudler, electric guitar; Joe Ford, soprano sax; John Swana, flugelhorn,trumpet; Louis Taylor, alto sax; Jay Davidson, baritone sax; Lynn Riley, flute.