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3 Sisters: Village

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Two guitars, an electric bassist, and a drummer. That's actually a surprisingly uncommon jazz lineup nowadays, and that novelty provides a great deal of the initial pleasure in hearing Village, an album the Canadian quartet 3 Sisters recorded in Toronto in 2002, only now seeing release on drummer Barry Romberg's Romhog label. Romberg, guitarists Geoff Young and Daryl Jahnke, and bassist Chris Tarry play good old-fashioned fusion music—at least "fusion in the 1970 definition of any jazz music with electric instruments and plenty of rock feel and influence—and their meeting is bracingly musical, joyous, and refreshing.

Starting the album off with Tarry's composition "Romhog was perhaps unwise, however. It's a rumbling, churning John Scofield homage, right down to the so-Sco bridge, and while it's got great fills from Young and hot, masterly timekeeping from Romberg, it's too exact a mimicking of Scofield's style. Jahnke sounds like an unnerving clone—a Sclone, if you will—during his solo. It's probably better than anything on Scofield's Bump, but the album should have started with something a little more individual.

No problem with anything else here, though. Young's "Rumination has all the features that made his own trio CD In Between so marvelous: Young's own spooky, articulated spider lines, a deeply memorable theme, and Romberg playing his trademark no-time surging, cresting fills, whether on snare, toms, or percussion. There's more of Romberg's almost singing, time-divorced drumming on his tune "Garden Party during Young's solo, which contrasts with Romberg's rapid-time cymbal work and Tarry's walking bass during Jahnke's break.

Tarry's "Merry-Go-Round could be the album's finest moment. This stunning track features acoustic, classical-flavored guitar from Young and elements of round structure in its composition that combine to create a bucolic, pre-Baroque effect. There's a delicate interthreading of bass and guitars that shifts and mutates through the various solos, culminating with a melodic, burbling bass solo from Tarry; listen to Romberg's snare-alone accompaniment here.

Jahnke's "Back in Style is an almost-as-fine groover with a ripping twin-guitar head: very Allman Brothers, really, and the way the players snap out of the solos to pop back into that theme is pure pleasure. Again, you don't hear this sort of thing much these days.

The two guitarists play impeccably together, but it should be said that while Young always sounds like Young, Jahnke's a little too good at sounding like, well, everyone: he sounds like Scofield on the aforementioned "Romhog ; like Pat Metheny on "Ultimaton (which has a nervous, cagy, Metheny-covers-Ornette feel); and like Metheny again on his solo on "Back in Style. On the Dave Trevis-composed title track, he sounds like, of all people, David Gilmour: you keep expecting Gilmour to start singing.

This single qualm is insufficient to significantly impair enjoying this CD. It's phenomenally played and well-written, and its variety of styles—whatever their derivation—never gives the impression that different bands are playing this music. This is a Village worth visiting.

Track Listing: 1. Romhog 2. Rumination 3. Ultimaton 4. Village 5. Garden Party 6. Merry-Go-Round 7. Back in Style 8. Seventh Best 9. Furthest Realm

Personnel: Geoff Young: electric and acoustic guitar; Daryl Jahnke: electric guitar; Chris Tarry: electric bass; Barry Romberg: drums and effects

Title: Village | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Romhog Records


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