The a/b trio Practices Trioliloquy

a-b trio001

TRIOLILOQUY / DAVIS-McHAN-BENNETT: Lenny’s Beat. How Suite it Is. Roundabout. Trioliloquy. Leda’s Song. Los Plazos Del Patrón. Bluesaholic. Secondary Opinion / a/b trio: Dan Davis, a-sax; Josh McHan, bs; Thom Bennett, dm. Special guest Kevin Turcotte, tpt / Chronograph Records CR065

The a/b trio (yes, they prefer lower case letters in their name) is a group of top-ranking studio jazz players from Alberta, Canada. On this release they are joined by another top musician from Toronto, trumpeter Kevin Turcotte.

Their music is typical of many of today’s jazz groups: melodic lines comprised of short riffs, asymmetric rhythms and good, solid solos. Guest trumpeter Turcotte’s solo in the opening track is particularly interesting, sounding to me much like Gene Shaw, who played on Charles Mingus’ Tijuana Moods album. Dan Davis’ alto sax almost sounds a bit tame by comparison, but is well-constructed and has a nice coherence about it. Most of the track, however, features ensemble playing. How Suite it Is is a lower-key piece at a slower tempo, this time with a more defined melody and, for the most part, a more defined 4/4 beat. On this one Turcotte again sounds something like Gene Shaw, but in a more sedate mood. After Davis’ solo, bassist Josh McHan gets a look-in with a tasteful solo of his own.

The promo sheet that came with this CD describes Roundabout as “a funky tune that brings forth visions of 1970’s spies,” but I simply found it to be a nice piece in a medium-uptempo with almost a march beat behind it at the outset. And as much as I like Davis’ solos, I still have to say that Turcotte is the star of this track was well. Hmm…could they possibly incorporate him permanently into the group and make it the a/b quartet? He not only shines as a soloist but also works hand-in-glove with whatever ensemble ideas they have.

The title track, Trioliloquy, is a slow burner that begins with the rhythm section, featuring Davis’ alto over cymbal washes in the opening chorus. It then moves into an irregular meter as Davis plays over McHan’s bass, creating interesting lines, before Davis plays a curiously Ornette Coleman sort of solo—then it just stops, leading into the ballad Lena’s Song, which also has a lovely melodic line.

Los Plazos Del Patrón has the feel of a Jobim bossa nova, somewhat reminiscent of the pieces he wrote for Stan Getz in the ‘60s, but it develops more fully and has some nice counterpoint between Davis and Turcotte, who again shines in his solo. Bluesaholic also sounds a bit like a retro tune, this time from the ‘50s, with Davis particularly fine on alto , here sounding just a bit like Paul Desmond. McHan also gets a chance to really stretch out here. The middle section bears a sneaking resemblance to Henry Mancini’s Pink Panther theme.

We close out the album with Secondary Opinion, which has one of the more complex melody lines in the set. Davis once again channels Coleman in his solo here, one of his finest, Turcotte is again quite fine, and drummer Thom Bennett gets some nice breaks here as well.

This is certainly a fine, solid CD of jazz with some very good and surprising moments!

—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley

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