I'll also say the latest from drummer Jeff Davis entitled Leaf House breathes new life into the somewhat predictable format of the piano trio. Along for the ride on this incredibly engaging effort is Russ Lossing on piano and Eivind Opsvik on bass. To call Leaf House a unique improvisational experience is like saying Max Roach was a lyrical drummer, the classic undersell. Drummer Davis has the rare ability to play with what I refer to as controlled sonic fury while providing an organic heartbeat for one of the finest trios on the New York scene today.
Davis is considered "left of center" in the jazz mecca that is the Big Apple but I don't hear it. Instead I hear a dynamic artist that walks a rhythmic tightrope with inspired playing and dynamic compositions. Instead of the more traditional "soloist" with the standard trio with piano setting, we have three individual voices combined to form a musical synergy. One voice.
"Leaf House" opens this release with complex rhythmic patterns that build a special dynamic tension until broken by a deceptively subtle simple melody. Pure genius and pure joy, an approach not often pulled off in a trio setting such as this. This trio has the ability to shift dynamics at will and even when hanging out in odd meter they never force the listener over the harmonic edge, they push the envelope with a textured presentation hard to find in similar trios. "Catbird" opens with a dark and lyrical bass solo, melancholy but never morose. The nuances added from Davis and Lossing paint a vivid sonic portrait from a deeper place than most musicians would dare go. Almost chamber jazz in presentation "Catbird" turns on a whimsical dime with an abrupt ending. Lossing virtuosity ranges from the percussive opening on the title track to an odd metered abstraction reminiscent of early Keith Jarrett in spots. I hate using musical frames of reference but with an adventurous trio that has found that special musical happy place between hard bop and free jazz, a unified perspective needs to be presented in this fashion. "Saint Albert" is a reflection on the influence of the great Albert Ayler and a stunning improvisational performance from Davis. "Transitional Whales" takes on a more open ended approach, slow crawling textures that move to a free jazz piano attack from Lossing and the continuation of the overwhelming sense of drama that seems to permeate Leaf House. Opsvik is a first call "A" list bassist whose lyricism and harmonic sense act as the binder for a spell binding display.
This is my wheelhouse. Davis is working in a gray area of music where abstraction is his friend and his only enemy possibly being those that are not willing to listen. The creativity in composition alone is off the charts and the harmonic exploratory conducted is not for the faint of heart but for those anxious to hear the music taken in to a new dimension.
As close to perfect as one could get, 4 out of 5 Stars...An amazing performance from a trio with unlimited potential!
Tracks: Leaf House; Faded; Overath; Catbird; Saint Albert; William Jacob; Transitional Whales; Lion Mouth.
Personnel: Jeff Davis: drums; Eivind Opsvik: bass; Russ Lossing: drums.