The Wee Trio – Capitol Diner Vol. 2 Animal Style (2010)

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by Pico

“The world’s most vicious vibes-led threesome”

That was the big impression I was left with from the self-described “post-punk jazz trio with vibraphone,” aka the Wee Trio, back when they released their debut record in the late summer of 2008. Capitol Diner Vol. 1 was hell-bent on busting up long-held conventions about how a vibe-led group was supposed to sound like, much as Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Ian Anderson had done for the formally lithe flute back in the 60s and 70s. Its aggressive stance which still left plenty of room for swinging was irresistible and fresh, easily making my list of top jazz albums of that year. Rooted in jazz but ferociously branching out into the more primitive ethos of rock, it’s easy to compare them to The Bad Plus, and often, they are. But if you want to know the truth, I think they’re better than TBP.

Last Tuesday the encore Capitol Diner Vol. 2 Animal Style went on sale, mostly encompassing new tunes written by the band while on tour supporting their first album, supplemented with an unpredictable selection of covers. Having laid down the tracks so soon after touring and composing, the flame that got started with the first album continues on strong in the second. Drummer Jared Schonig, acoustic bassist Dan Loomis and vibes player James Westfall have an intense rapport that’s all the more amazing when you consider they’ve known each other barely three years.

As before, this power triumvirate of 21st century jazz brought sacks of intricate ‘tude to the sessions, and just as they promised, it rocks even harder. Many times, it does so deceptively, as in the trick rhythm underpinnings of “The Oracle” or the light-footed exuberance “Wherever You Go, There You Are.” “White Out” illuminates the awesomeness of this trio at all levels: a Schonig song that uses a crafty melodic line the places beat accents in odd spots; a bridge that swings mightily and ensemble playing where everyone is working their butts off. Schonig all over his kit, and Westfall’s vibe runs are smokin’, while Loomis is nailing down fluid beat. See a live version of this tune in the video below, with vocal scat added. “Shephard” isn’t quite as overt in its brawn, but just listen to how the rhythm section give thunderous support to Westfall and ever so gradually push down on the gas before guiding the number back down to a soft landing. Of the handful of covers, “Avril 14th” from the Aphex Twins standout for the urbane touch they give it and maximal group interplay.

Also for Vol. 2, the band introduces a few new ideas that distinguish it a bit from Vol. 1 without recasting the mold they set before. Schonig’s acoustic funk-rock vamp “San Fernando” is split up into two parts, as the albums intro and epilogue. Westfall introduces a mini-Korg and Vocoder on such numbers as “Tig Mack In Santa Monica,” “Snow Day,” “Pinball Number Count,”as well as in the intro for “Shephard,” bringing a new, placid element to their overall sound, but never threatens to dominate it. In fact, Westfall works in these spacey instruments alongside his vibes in a way that sounds natural.

When a band comes forth with a strong debut, it’s hard to capture the same magic the second time around. These sophomore albums have to answer questions about whether this act can do it again and prove they’re no fluke. The Wee Trio did indeed do it again.

Purchase: The Wee Trio – Capitol Diner Vol. 2 Animal Style

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at [email protected] .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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