By DAVE GREGG
Combining the best ingredients of what makes a jazz trio great, Event Horizon, the debut recording of the Mark Wade Trio, is an event worthy of considerable praise and recognition. The creative alchemy this group melds in the nine compositions on the CD not only strengthens the history of the jazz trio but also reinvigorates this illustrious instrumentation with the ever enduring spirit of invention.
With Mark Wade on bass, Tim Harrison on piano, and Scott Neumann on drums (all seasoned musicians that listen with a capital L) the compelling components of the jazz trio — the democratic interplay of parts, the balance of shared sonic space, the breathtaking exchange of musical dialogue — come into full realization. Rare do you find a trio of musicians so capable of saying something individually yet committed to working as a group to support a singular idea. While the Mark Wade Trio certainly honors the work of esteemed trios from the past, they have undoubtedly added to the ongoing conversation with a unique voice of their own.
Mark Wade, leader of the trio and composer of eight original compositions on the CD, plays the acoustic bass with a deep, fervent resonance that approaches ecstasy. Using vibrato and a myriad of soulful inflections, Wade creates a tone that echoes the best of Paul Chambers or Scott LaFaro, yet there’s an inherent wisdom in the sound, as if the wood from the bass were cut from a lone Cypress tree that stood sentinel for hundreds of years on a wind-swept rocky coast.
The piano artistry of Tim Harrison delights at almost every turn of phrase, crafting rich melodic lines in his solos that pull you along with a magisterial ability to both swing and surprise. His harmonic inventiveness is of equal richness, and the tonal pleasures of his touch on the keyboard, exquisitely delicate in the ballads and excitedly commanding in the stronger passages, unveils a musician of unusual sophistication and talent.
Scott Neumann, on drums, is easily summarized in one word: taste. At all junctures his playing supports the organic conception of the trio: three distinct voices working together as one. Neumann lends an equally inventive voice to the group, creating a sonic palette of rhythmic textures and colors, swinging hard when needed yet also capable of brush work that seems as light and graceful as the wings of a butterfly.
The nine compositions on the recording represent an irresistible showcase of jazz styles, and one could view them as Wade’s gallery of artistic canvases, with each selection expanding on the earlier work to greatly enhance the whole.
The first selection, Jump For Joy, a sprightly piece that beautifully exemplifies the joy of making music with a jazz trio, is a sunny waltz in the tradition of Bill Evans.
The haunting Apogee, a stirring ballad that at times echoes the free jazz cry of Ornette Coleman’s Lonely Woman, bustles with the hint of frenetic tempos ahead before settling into more ethereal realms where the time swirls and drifts without apparent meter. The effect creates a timeless quality in the piece, aided by the ambiguity of chromatically descending chords and Wade’s own emotive bass playing where each pluck of a string seemingly leaks star stuff.
Singsong is not a song at all but a repeated motif posed as a question. One hears parallels to Ive’s The Unanswered Question in the relentless probing of the melodic fragment. The gifted musicianship of Scott Neumann on drums, a natural poet of rhythmic subtlety, features prominently here.
Valley and Stream, a work of pensive beauty that could pass as a film score for an art house narrative, approaches the sublime in exquisite passages from Wade and Harrison. The poignant character of the melody, quiet yet searching, resonates long after the music has ended.
If I Only Had a Brain, charming from start to finish, is framed by a dominant seventh chord deliciously battered with the distinctive flavors of the half-diminished scale. Set in 5/4, the trio swings so convincingly throughout that you may wonder if the song was originally written in the quintuple meter. Following a playful exchange of solos by the members of the trio, the arrangement ends on a series of rapidly shifting modulations that surprise and delight.
In conclusion, although the history of the jazz trio remains dominated by imaginative minds like Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson, Ahmad Jamal, McCoy Tyner, Cedar Walton, Chick Corea and others, the Mark Wade Trio has left an indelible mark in that timeline with a recording that boasts strong compositions, memorable solos, and three remarkable musicians that met the stringent demands of what it takes to lead a jazz trio to greatness. ????
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- Jump For Joy
- The Prisoner
- Valley and Stream
- Twist in the Wind
- Cold Spring
- If I Only Had a Brain
Tim Harrison – Piano
Mark Wade – Bass
Scott Neumann – Drums