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Danny Fox Trio: Wide Eyed

Dan Bilawsky By

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"This record is the result of countless hours of writing, rehearsing in a basement, touring around the country in a clown car, drinking too much coffee, beating jokes into the ground, listening to all kinds of music together, and pushing each other to try new things (be it musically or using cruise control on the highway)." So says pianist Danny Fox on the inside panel of Wide Eyed.

The above statement gives a bit of insight into the way Fox works. His music, like his written introduction, is thought out, witty, humor-laced and remarkably upfront; this is serious and sincere jazz that doesn't take itself too seriously. Fox, a native New Yorker who earned a B.A. in psychology at Harvard before returning to The Big Apple to dig his heels into the music scene, turned some heads with his debut trio recording—The One Constant (Songlines, 2011)—and he's poised to turn even more with this follow-up.

Wide Eyed is enthralling jazz for the attention deficit era. Minimalist bedrock riffs are surrounded by scampering sounds, jaunty themes take sharp turns into rough neighborhoods, thoughtful suggestions are washed away by purposefully reckless tides, and a degree of sensitivity is balanced out with a proclivity for idiosyncratic construction. In Fox's world, consistency is circled by uncertainty ("Sterling"), a somewhat steady course can still be full of surprises ("Confederates"), and an episode of nonchalant music manages to hide challenges within its body ("Short Al In Brooklyn").

Fox can play the part of the harmonically adept classicist when he wants ("Patriot Daze"), but like every other phase he goes through here, it's a passing one. Bassist Chris van Voorst van Beest and drummer Max Goldman share Fox's preference for quick shifts and wide emotional arcs. They each play with a deft touch that can turn deadly at any moment. The piano trio may be the most played out format in jazz, but Fox doesn't seem to know that; his trio is fresh as can be.

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