Trion (Giant Step Arts)
Released April 5, 2019
JazzTimes Top 10 Albums of 2019
Trion, is an exhilarating chordless trio outing; an album captured live at New York City’s renowned The Jazz Gallery with fellow modern jazz greats Chris Potter and Linda May Han Oh.
Blake approached this trio date with the same sense of open camaraderie with which he enters into any musical situation – the collaborative spirit that makes him such a remarkable drummer. The album’s title is taken from a physics term that refers to three atoms combining to form a single unit, a concept that is deeply meaningful in the context of this highly attuned trio.
“I’m in awe of both Linda and Chris,” Blake says. “This was a really beautiful chance for us to make some honest music together and I really enjoyed the process. We all felt very comfortable in the chordless format; we really know how to fill up the space without getting in each other’s way, which gives each one of us the opportunity to have our shining moments.” Blake’s double album is the second release from Jimmy Katz’s Giant Step Arts, a groundbreaking, artist-focused non-profit with a single mission: to help modern jazz innovators create their art free of commercial pressure.
1. Calodendrum (Johnathan Blake) 01:59
2. Synchronicity 1 (Sting) 16:42
3. Trope (Linda Intro) (Linda Oh) 03:22
4. Trope (Linda Oh) 08:03
5. One for Honor (Charles Fambrough) 10:57
6. High School Daze (Johnathan Blake) 10:07
7. No Bebop Daddy (Johnathan Blake) 10:19
1. Bedrum (Johnathan Blake) 02:51
2. Good Hope (Chris Potter) 11:34
3. Eagle (Chris Potter) 10:15
4. Relaxing at the Camarillo (Charlie Parker) 11:02
5. Blue Heart (John Blake Jr.) 07:54
6. West Berkley St. (Johnathan Blake) 07:30
Chris Potter: tenor saxophone
Linda May Han Oh: bass
Johnathan Blake: drums
Recorded live January 21 – 22, 2018, at The Jazz Gallery in New York City
Produced by Jimmy Katz and Jonathan Blake
Recorded by Jimmy Katz
Mixing and mastering: Dave Darlington
Photography and design by Jimmy & Dena Katz
You’re setting expectations high when your trio partners are tenor saxophonist Chris Potter and bassist Linda May Han Oh, two of the jazz world’s more versatile and dynamic improvisers. Drummer Johnathan Blake certainly meets those standards on this riveting two-disc live set.
The chordless lineup results in a concentrated energy. On the surface, a nearly 17-minute take on The Police’s “Synchronicity 1” seems like overkill. But Potter’s snaking lines, Oh’s melodic solo and the charging, flexible rhythmic drive keep the listener captivated for its entirety. At one point during the group’s expansive read of Charlie Parker’s “Relaxin’ at Camarillo,” the intensity ratchets up to such a degree that it sounds like the group will fly off the bandstand. However, the proceedings cool off enough for Oh’s and Blake’s expressive and focused solos.
Intensity abounds, to be sure, but plenty of variety, as well. The R&B-inspired melody of “West Berkley St.” – an ode to the Philadelphia street on which Blake grew up – glides along Oh’s vamp and Blake’s insistent rhythm, lending the tune an air of decidedly hip 1970s nostalgia. Potter’s two compositions showcase his range: “Good Hope” rides a sprightly South African-inspired rhythm, while “Eagle” – appropriately – swoops and soars through a sinuous melody. Oh contributes “Trope,” a brooding piece propelled by her nimble, leaping phrases and Potter’s billowy tenor lines.
Blake’s drumwork is electrifying throughout, always maintaining an elastic sense of swing regardless of the context. On “Bedrum,” a nearly three-minute solo showcase, Blake delivers a concise lesson in dynamics, textures and tension building.
The title of the album isn’t just a play on the word trio. In physics, a trion refers to a particle that incorporates three separate properties: energy, charge and spin. It’s an apt metaphor to describe the artistry of Blake and company.
John Frederick Moore (JAZZIZ)