Modern piano jazz from a forward-looking trio…
Danny Fox Trio – The Great Nostalgist [TrackList follows] – Hot Cup 104, 53:18 [1/19/18] ****:
(Danny Fox – piano; Chris van Voorst van Beest – bass; Max Goldman – drums)
There’s plenty of personal history in the ten originals on the Danny Fox Trio’s third album, the 53-minute The Great Nostalgist. The modern jazz tunes are titled after different aspects of friendship, family, childhood, school days and recent life events. The NYC-based group formed in 2008. Pianist Fox also co-founded the New York City rock and roll band Tubby and has performed with Bruce Springsteen, Cassandra Wilson and Kermit Driscoll. Bassist Chris van Voorst van Beest (born in Maine; moved to Brooklyn in 2005) created the chamber music project Hear + Now. Drummer Max Goldman (born in Rochester, NY and has lived in NYC since 2001) has played and/or recorded with Tim Berne, Eleanor Friedberger (who was one-half of The Fiery Furnaces) and others. The Danny Fox Trio’s previous releases comprise 2011’s The One Constant and 2014’s Wide Eyed.
The threesome open with the cerebral “Adult Joe,” meant to honor old friends and recall childhood nicknames. The 6:35 tune features a moody bass melody, listing drum cymbals and twisting piano lines. The arrangement uses interesting recurrent reiterations which provide an unusual structure which supports a slightly off-kilter characteristic. There’s a pensive abstraction which flits through the approximately seven-minute “Theme for Gloomy Bear,” inspired by a giant, pink stuffed animal with claws. Goldman utilizes a shaker as part of the percussive elements, while Fox alternates between a repetitive statement and wistful accompaniment; van Voorst van Beest supplies a sublime bass improvisation; and Goldman once again showcases his subtle cymbal work. Childhood memory also suffuses the country-tinged “Jewish Cowboy (The Real Josh Geller).” This minor-key piece taps into one of Fox’s earliest musical influences, bluegrass artists such as Doc Watson, which was the type of music Fox’s parents would listen to during family car trips. The upbeat “Jewish Cowboy” is reminiscent of jazz with country roots done by Dave Brubeck (particularly “Unsquare Dance”) or Gary Burton (see 1967’s Tennessee Firebird). The tricky time signature is coupled with a winning melodic theme complemented by Goldman’s driving rhythmic foundation, van Voorst van Beest’s equally propulsive bass and Fox’s energetic keyboard.
Two selections were stimulated by Fox’s recollections of youthful connections to ice cream. The lengthy “Cookie Puss Prize” is named after a Carvel Ice Cream mascot Fox won in a grade-school ice cream eating competition. “Cookie Puss Prize” commences with a contrapuntal piano/bass duet and then Goldman slips in gently with shimmering cymbals and brushes. From there, the arrangement picks up as the trio offers a polyrhythmic groove which carries through the rest of the number. The second half of “Cookie Puss Prize” has a nimble and quirky uniqueness which suggests the Cookie Puss character, who was described by Carvel as a space alien born on the planet Birthday. This is not the first time the ice cream entity has been musically referenced. The Beastie Boys also wrote a song about Cookie Puss. The other ice cream composition is “Fat Frog,” designated after a popular ice cream bar (sold under the Good Humor brand) with a nearly-neon green color. This is another quick-paced piece with an unconventional arrangement which has a veering time signature, explorative sections, careering percussive instances and occasional quieter tidbits.
The Great Nostalgist closes with two tunes about things which spin or circle. “Emotional Baggage Carousel” was instigated by a visit to JFK Airport. The introduction has a measured, melancholy vibe. Then the arrangement changes to a rotating, rapidly-strutting mannerism which builds and escalates as drums and bass push the beat faster and faster, while Fox furnishes brisk piano lines. “Emotional Baggage Carousel” concludes as it begins with a slow, lingering quality. “Old Wash World” was penned about watching laundry spin round and round. The title comes from Fox’s local laundromat and hangout, New Wash World. “Old Wash World” has an innovative sensibility, a compelling rhythmic melody and absorbing rhythmic communication between piano, bass and drums.
Theme for Gloomy Bear
Jewish Cowboy (The Real Josh Geller)
Cookie Puss Prize
Emotional Baggage Carousel
Old Wash World