MYRIAD3 MOONS / DONNELLY: Skeleton Key; Unnamed Cells; Sketch 8. CERVINI: Noyammas; Ameliasburg; Moons; Brother Dom. FORTIN: Stoner; Peak Fall; Exhausted Clock. DISASTERPEACE: Counter of the Cumulus / Myriad3: Chris Donnelly, pn/synth; Don Fortin, bass/fretless bs/synth; Ernesto Cervini, dm/glockenspiel / Alma ACD52062
On the surface Myriad3 is another jazz piano trio, but one doesn’t have to listen very long to realize that there is much under the surface and it’s pretty eclectic and interesting. This despite the fact that there are elements of minimalism (Skeleton Key) and ambient jazz (Stoner) mixed in with their strong jazz roots. I was not particularly pleased by their use of a rock beat on the opening track, but as the late tenor Peter Pears said in 1975 about radio, rock music seems to be “the coming thing.” The nice aspect of Myriad3’s performance, however, is that it has a nice, gentle swing to it, one might almost say an updated version of Vince Guaraldi’s sound from the ‘60s.
I also found it refreshing that all three of the trio’s members, including drummer Ernesto Cervini, contribute charts to this collection, and each of them have a different perspective. This is evident in the second track, Ernesto Cervini’s Noyammas, with its slyly morphing beat and semi-fluid chord structure. As I’ve mentioned about some other modern bands, Myriad3 also seems to take a cue from the compositional style of Charles Mingus, for whom such fluid structures were normal. Unnamed Cells, like Skeleton Key, has elements of minimalism, for instance, but the beat is not only not in a rock mode but also asymmetrical in feeling, at leas until the fretless electric bass comes in and we return to a steadier pulse. I noticed as I was listening that Myriad3’s improvisations are all based on the underlying pulse more so than even the chord structure, certainly an unusual approach to music. In this respect, their scores have a certain kinship with Beethoven, for whom rhythm was the root of everything. This emphasis on the rhythmic angle allows the group to cohere more frequently than many other bands, large and small, that use irregular or asymmetric rhythms, because those bands keep shifting the beat as the soloists improvise. Myriad3’s players, on the other hand, only shift the beat when the next section of the tune arrives or when the improvisation demands an altered tempo.
Stoner by bassist Don Fortin sounds the most conventionally relaxed, like nice, polite ambient jazz, but this perception changes subtly at the halfway mark as the music becomes more strong in its pulse and the piano’s bass line “moves” the music into somewhat different realms—all without bringing up the tempo to heighten tension—before completely relaxing at the 4:18 mark and ending in a series of long single notes. Peak Fall has a quietly meditative sound to it, as if one were sitting in a park near sunset admiring the setting sunlight reflect off gently swirling leaves of gold and brown. The allusion to “swirling” is doubly apropos here, as the beat itself begins to swirl and turn in on itself as the piece progresses. I have to compliment the sound engineer, John “Beetle” Bailey, for capturing the sound of the trio in the warmest space possible without using overdone ambience to ruin the immediacy of their sound.
Counter of the Cumulus, the only piece on here not written by a group member, was composed by electronic artist Disasterpeace. I found it too rock-like and intrusive for my taste. Happily, the group returns to its normal mein in Cervini’s jazz waltz Ameliasburg, and Donnelly’s Sketch 8 revisits the minimalist feel. Surprisingly Moons, the title track of this CD, almost has the feel of a classical prelude, being quite slow and deliberate, relying for once on the piano chords to move the music forward with no improvisation—a cloud floating across the horizon with just a bit of electronic reverb (and a bass line) towards the end. Brother Dom, with its quirky yet steady beat and simplistic melodic cells, bears a certain resemblance to the work of Carla Bley (particularly those quirky meter shifts around the two-minute mark), although here Donnelly’s piano solo put me in mind of Bill Evans from his modal period. The music becomes increasingly busier and louder as the piece progresses, and ironically the beat is shortened by fractions as the piano playing turns almost frenetic.
The album ends with Fortin’s Exhausted Clock, which starts out with a ticking sound that relaxes, then becomes irregular, and then just poops out. Donnelly contributes light right-hand sprinkles on the keyboard before the bass comes in at the one-minute mark, almost as elongated and fatigued as those clock ticks. For those of you who remember the old New York-area Late Show with its use of Leroy Anderson’s The Syncopated Clock as a theme song, this one is kind of like The Late Show on Valium. It’s also one of the few pieces on this album in which the drums become extremely busy, albeit at a soft volume (mostly snares with brushes, I think) as te piano and bass meander along.
All in all, Moons is a different kind of jazz album, showing creativity in ways that are unusual and reaching for mood and feeling as much as substance. I think you’ll like it.
— © 2016 Lynn René Bayley