AMP Trio – Three [TrackList follows] – AMP Trio Music, 56:37 [3/17/17] ****:
The best things come in threes.
(Addison Frei – piano, Fender Rhodes; Matt Young – drums; Perrin Grace – acoustic bass)
New York City based AMP Trio believe in the power of three. The threesome’s latest is the hour-long Three (issued on the band’s own imprint, AMPTrioMusic). The group was named after themselves: the A is for keyboardist Addison Frei (acoustic piano and Fender Rhodes); the M is for drummer Matt Young; and the P is for acoustic bassist Perrin Grace. The three met while students at the Manhattan School of Music and have been gigging and recording ever since.
Each member has been busy after graduating. Young was in the late Bob Belden’s Animation ensemble; Frei (it’s pronounced ‘Fry’ by the way) has released solo albums and supported John Raymond and Tim Green on stage, and has had numerous solo piano gigs; Grace has performed alongside John Riley, Amina Figarova and Alex Sipiagin and has extensive international jazz experience. But it is definitely the AMP trio’s live and studio work which has garnered the most interest from reviewers and listeners.
The 13 tracks on Three showcase the trio’s musical merits: Frei penned five cuts; Young wrote three; Grace composed four; and there is one jazz standard. Frei is a distinguished composer who has won awards for some of his work, and his material on Three highlights his compositional approach. The CD opens with a short, edited Frei title called “Intro: Community,” a bubbling one-minute starter which shares some structural elements with Young’s “Narhet,” the second track. “Narhet” has a friendly but also unpredictable arrangement, where percussion (via piano and drums) has a changeable quality and Frei’s soloing has a clipped characteristic. Frei’s edited “Community” piece resurfaces just past the CD’s midpoint, where it’s dubbed “Community Pt. 1” and reappears near the album’s conclusion, as “Community Pt. 2.” There’s no sure reason specified for why the trio uses “Community” in this way, but it does supply a slice of continuity throughout the CD program.
One of the most delightful numbers is Frei’s charming “Kitano Theme,” a superb character sketch which has a beautiful and clear-cut demeanor accentuated by Frei’s flowing piano runs. The lengthiest piece is Frei’s slow burner, “Blues for Rhineland,” probably named after the Western Germany area. “Blues for Rhineland” has a traditional jazz deportment, a mid-swinging stance with sharp cymbals, a frequently loping cadence, and plenty of space for bass, piano and drum improvisation.
One of Young’s more memorable cuts is the melancholy “Onwards,” which is dedicated to Belden. It has the texture and emotive effect of a jazz requiem, although one which is not necessarily somber, but rather has a flitting attribute, as the trio moves and shifts along a nearly seven-minute course, which sometimes decelerates, sometimes quickens, has solemn moments and other times has optimistic instances. Young also displays his thoughtfulness on the ending piece, “Waking Life,” which has a bluesy shadiness emphasized by Frei’s soulful Fender Rhodes. “Waking Life” echoes the feeling of waking up to a dreary, cloudy and misty day and discovering there is no coffee in the kitchen pantry.
Grace seems to like and gravitate to sanguine components. His six-minute “Hexed” has understated buoyancy, a lithe temperament reinforced by Grace’s supple bass soloing and Frei’s clement piano. There’s no surprise to find another Grace composition titled “Sunny Summer” (although ironically has a downcast foundation far from being sunny). “Sunny Summer” segues into the pop-inclined “N.T. Bag,” which does in fact have a balmy and positive disposition and is one of the album’s finer tunes.
The CD’s lone non-original is a bright and upbeat rendition of Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile.” Some musicians have done this in a measured, moody way, but the AMP Trio gives it their all, stressing the swing, and maintaining a vigorous tempo which helps spotlight Chaplin’s notable melody. There’s a straightforward elegance and magic to a piano, bass and drums trio, an appeal which has seemingly never gone out of fashion, and thankfully there are folks like the AMP Trio who keep such conventions alive and moving onward.
Onwards (for Bob Belden)
Community Pt. 1; Smile
Blues for Rhineland
Community Pt. 2