Sunday, June 6, 2010

Review of Project Trio: A Whole New Approach to Chamber Jazz

Project TrioReview of : Project Trio’s : Project Trio

From the opening notes of this unusual cd you know that you are in for something a little different. The playful nature of Greg Pattillo’s breathy flute sound is at once intriguing, entertaining and totally different from any sound that you maybe expecting or have probably ever heard. Pattillo is perhaps best known as a practitioner par excellence of a technique known as  “beat box” flute playing. “Beat Boxing” is the practice of using your mouth to create drum sounds and is an important part of the rap music genre. Pattillo, although not the first to incorporate this technique into flute playing, is certainly one of its most accomplished artists. A You Tube video featuring him playing “Inspector Gadget” at  has gone viral, reportedly receiving over 21 million views! He has taken his classical training on flute, along with formidable chops and added the rhythmic element of “beat boxing” to his repertoire extending the sonic palette of the flute.

His fellow and equally talented trio members Eric Stephenson on cello and Peter Seymour on bass (both classically trained musicians who have been members of major symphonies in their own right) combine to form Project Trio, a genre blending chamber music group that blurs the lines between classical, jazz and various contemporary and alternative music forms.

Now based in Brooklyn- the epicenter of modern music-under the moniker of Project Trio, the three have released a new album of the same name that deserves serious attention.

Stand UpThe raucous “Dr Nick" is a memorable repeating melody, reminiscent of early Jethro Tull. The beat is made all the more alive, combining multiple rhythmic elements including Pattillo’s “box beat” flute and  percussive playing on the bodies of their instruments by Seymour and Stephenson, all deftly intertwined with pizzicato and bowed string parts to create a joyous musical experience.
The Trio has a conversational sensibility that crosses into instrumental folk music with a playful storytelling motif especially on tunes like “Dup Dup”. “Fast” is a skillful exercise in each musician’s dexterity.

Time OutTheir more straight ahead treatment of Dave Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo A la Turk” , from the classic album "Time Out" is an interesting and faithful take on a piece of music that was one of a signpost for classically influenced jazz.

Irresistible Bliss“City of Dreams”, a poetic take on Brooklyn, is the only vocalized song on the album. It may well be a bow to the alternative rock of the early 90’s band Soul Coughing. Mark Gurarie’s vocal, a stream of consciousness poem-like rant, seems inspired by the band’s Mike Doughty to my ears.

“Visual Machine” is a sonic delight with Stephenson and Seymour combining to weave wonderfully evocative arco duets behind Pattillo’s repeating rhythmic flute patterns. Pattillo’s flute at times has an almost aboriginal sound to it. He is capable of eliciting sounds that range from the most softly sublime, almost spiritual whispers to the most slashing howls.

“Grass” is a cross into bluegrass territory, with an oompah bass line from Seymour and a fiddle-like, hoe-down quality emanating from Stephenson’s cello that gets your feet stomping. Great fun.

“Arco/Pizz” is a reference to the bowing and picking techniques used in string instruments and both are used in this solemn piece, which most closely resembles true chamber music.

The final song is remake of a “Guns ‘n Roses” composition titled “Sweet Child O’ Mine" which will undoubtedly afford the group greater accessibility to a wider, more popular music oriented audience who can  identify with the familiar melody of this song.

It is nice to see a group of talented musicians create a music that blurs lines between classical chamber, jazz and alternative popular music so successfully. Creating bridges by using their unique vision, their formidable skills while maintaining an unbridled joy that is infectious and has mass appeal. 

Project Trio in a jazz vein plays Charles Mingus's "Fables of Faubus"
Musicians: Greg Pattillo ( flute); Eric Stephenson (Cello); Peter Seymour ( bass) & Mark Gurarie (vocal on City of Dreams)

Recorded 2009 Brooklyn, NY.

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