James Armstrong, Jr., piano; Haruwn Welsey, acoustic bass; Nicolai Gvatua, drums
These San-Francisco based musicians known collectively as The J.A.Z. Trio, have released an energetic demo of original compositions augmented by two overlooked pieces of Wayne Shorter's and Thelonious Monkís.
The group is led by Armstrong's forceful piano. He has a firm grasp of the sheer power of Monk, often slamming the keys to create a shattering dissonance (especially when paying homage on Monkís own Bye-Ya ).
He understands the rhythmic complexities of Cecil Taylor and the intellectualism of Andrew Hill. He has used these strong influences to create a personal style, always saving room for the purity of his own fingers on the keys. It is through his touch, his feel for the instrument that he achieves his individual power.
This is by no means Armstrong's game alone, however. He relies heavily on the collective support and prompting of his two associates. Gvatua calmly plows away in the time-keeping chair while managing to retain intuition strong enough to anticipate Armstrong's every move. His persistent drive of cymbals and tom rolls on Armstrong's Tune for Brother Haruwn brings the shatteringly short three-minute song to a climactic end that leaves you wanting more. Wesley's bass, unfortunately, suffers from low recording quality, and it is difficult to ascertain his true tone, despite leading the melody on his own Haruwn's Groove, a beautiful modal piece that is immediately reflective of McCoy Tyner's solo work from the '60s.
by Stefan Zeniuk
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