Bill Mays Inventions Trio – Life’s a Movie – Chiaroscuro Records CR(D) 400, 55:40 ****:
(Bill Mays – piano; Marvin Stamm – trumpet and flugelhorn; Alisa Horn – cello)
Chiaroscuro Records was known as a classy jazz label for over five decades. They recorded mostly veteran jazz artists who were favorites of the label’s owner, Hank O’Neal, who also produced the albums. Jazz legends like Bobby Hackett and Mary Lou Williams were part of the label’s roster, and the albums had unique graphics. I always dug the in-joke that the label’s photographs and design were done by “Rollo Phlecks.”
In 2010 the label was donated to WVIA Public Media in Pennsylvania, and WVIA has maintained distribution of CDs from the label’s catalog. They are also issuing new material through their A&R director, producer and WVIA jazz host, George Graham. Along with the new Phil Woods issue (reviewed here), the label should be proud to add to their new roster, the Bill Mays Inventions Trio. Made up of piano, trumpet, and cello, the trio has a unique blend that fits well into presenting chamber music jazz, a mixture of classical and jazz motifs.
For the trio’s third project, they decided to cover themes as diverse as a homage to Bill Evans, an imaginary film soundtrack, two Spanish jazz tracks (the famous Concierto de Aranjuez and Chick Corea’s “Spain“), and a three-track Monk tribute.
The four tracks devoted to Bill Evans include two of his most famous and memorable compositions, “Turn Out the Stars” and “Waltz for Debby.” Mays’ piano genius well serves honoring Evans as he solos on “My Bells.”
“Interplay” is an apt title for the blend that Stamm and Alisa Horn bring to this track. Horn “walks” the cello while Marvin adds some soulful blues lines. “Turn Out the Stars” gets a classical music reading by Horn and her tone is divine.
The four movie soundtrack cover almost half of the CD and their “4 Cues in Search of a Film” cover Mays’ creative chamber reading of a main title, love theme, film chase, and end credits. The soaring trumpet blending in with sparkling piano runs and classy cello accompaniment create a mood that brings the listener to imagine their inclusion in a European drama or crime thriller.
The two Spanish themes are highlights for Marvin Stamm’s burnished trumpet, while the Monk tribute lets Mays display his “Monkish” side while Horn has her cello play the bass role, while Stamm keeps pace with Mays. “Trinkle Tinkle” is taken at a gallop, while “Pannonica” appropriately strolls. “Straight, No Chaser” concludes with Marvin taking lead followed by some fun gypsy jazz cello by Alisa.
Hats off to the Inventions Trio for four themes covered with panache.
Homage to Bill Evans: My Bells, Interplay, Turn Out the Stars, Waltz for Debby
Life’s a Movie: 4 Cues in Search- Main Title, Love Theme Bittersweet, Chase, End Credits
Concierto de Aranjuez, Spain
Monk Tribute: Trinkle Tinkle, Pannonica, Straight No Chaser