Artist/s: Casey Golden (piano, keyboards and music box), Bill Williams (bass), Ed Rodriguez(drums and percussion), plus guest Daniel Walsh (guitar).
Label: EP, Self-release.
Reviewed by John Clare
“Rewards of the piano trio plus supplementaries (not forgetting tensions and resolutions).”
In the main this is a piano trio – in the jazz sense of piano, bass and drums. There are surprise enhancements as listed above. The music box is most likely inspired by the Alister Spence Trio. Both these trios are in the top three or four or more I have listened to frequently in the past decade. It is a rich field currently.
This is certainly a jazz trio, but it leans even more than usual toward classical or perhaps more pertinently, baroque music. Complexity and precision, melodically and rhythmically, are taken to a high level. The contrasting sonic make-up of the instruments, that is to say their harmonic recipes and the overall textures of the ensemble put it unmistakably in the jazz area.
While in this area we might mention J.S. Bach’s fifth Brandenburg concerto, which is pretty much engulfed by the stupendous harpsichord cadenza. Here we have complexity as mentioned above, cross- or polyrhythms to boggle the intellect, and the direct rhythmic sense. Written of course. But is it all written? I have heard the proposition that much of it is a transcription of a Bach improvisation. In his lifetime he was better known as a virtuoso keyboardist and improviser than as a composer
Why mention this? Because in the Golden recording, the level of intellectual and physical satisfaction, the brilliance of the detailing, is such that I cannot tell always how much is written, how much collectively improvised.
This has nothing to do with one’s rating of the music, but simply out of curiosity and the anticipation that some readers might also like to know. I asked Casey Golden how much was written, how much spontaneous. He agreed that much more is written here than in their usual performances. Track 1 is openly improvised from four minutes thirty in to 7.30 minutes.Track 2 is improvised from beginning to the last 4 minutes.
In the first section of what is basically a suite, a play of surging waltz rhythms are interrupted briefly by flying swing sections (swing is usually in four but more complex rhythms can be heard within swing directionalityand momentum). Typically, the combination of sophistication and propulsive tension – harmonically, melodically and rhythmically – is a hallmark of the modern jazz piano trio, and this is an exceptionally good one. The drums and bass (listed above) are remarkable indeed: masters of both fierce momentum and sharp precision.
Intricate repetitions (some written, some not) are held at the keyboard against intelligently aggressive cross rhythmic contrary arguments, until all disputes are suddenly released, rhapsodically, balletically or explosively.
Two of the additional or supplementary instruments – electric keyboard, electric guitar – introduce at points a fluid, even liquid element, which is beautifully integrated; while the music box, sounding alone, suddenly draws us to a horizon or middle distance where all elements are miniaturized. This is a brilliant connection with the title.
The piano trio can be one of the great satisfactions, with its potential for intellectual interest, rhythmic excitement and harmonic colour play. This is one of the leaders in this field here in Australia and, I would imagine, in international forums.