The Chandler Travis Three-O – This Is What Bears Look Like Underwater (2012)

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OK, so I just got done reading this impossibly stupid article (which I refuse to link to because, yes, it’s that stupid) about how jazz music isn’t popular because the artists are not writing music that the kids want to hear (read: It’s not rock. It’s not hip-hop). I had to read it through a couple of times because it seemed like I might have stumbled onto a sub-site of The Onion. No, the author was being serious. Ugh.

That awful piece of writing really has nothing much to do with the Chandler Travis, it’s just one of those coincidences. I’d planned to come home, eat a burrito (I had two), ignore the Presidential debate, watch a little Gordon Ramsay, and dive into the stack of music that’s been piling up. But then I get blind-sided by the new king of journo-musical vapitude and my brain feels like it’s coated with a thin, oily film of cynicism and ignorance.

Well…it was the Chandler Travis Three-O to the rescue! As luck would have it, I stumbled onto the perfect antidote for my mood in the form of the Three-O’s debut album This Is What Bears Look Like Underwater. By “perfect,” I mean it’s a record that’s full of sincere joy, lacking a single particle of jaded attitude. Plus, as far as categories go, I’d have no idea where to place it. That’s always a good thing for my ears.

But what, exactly, is a “Three-O”? That would be Chandler Travis on guitar and vocals, Fred Boak on vocals, John Clark on string bass and vocals, and Berke McKelvey on clarinets, saxophones, and keyboards. That’s right, four guys, because Mr. Travis is not just an erudite musician. He’s also a professional smartass.

So in the spirit of musical category avoidance, This Is What Bears Look Like Underwater contains wistful pop tunes (“Take Me With You,” “January,” “Born To Disappear”), swanky shuffles (“I Still Drink My Coffee Blue,” “Stuck,” “One Step Forward”), and a pair of terrific covers — the Beatles “In My Life,” and NRBQ’s “Things To You”. There are also several instrumentals including the searching “Little Things,” the expansive “Zoe,” and “Camel, Passing Through the Eye of a Needle,” which brings hints of Esquivel by way of Tom Waits. Great stuff.

Mysteriously, all of these unrelated things (on paper, anyway) manage to form an incredibly cohesive whole. Or maybe it’s not a mystery at all. Maybe Chandler Travis is in agreement with the smug journalist, who indicted jazz as lacking melodies that “casual listeners can whistle along to.”

Or maybe he’s just a professional smartass.

This Is What Bears Look Like Underwater may be purchased at the Chandler Travis Merchandise Page

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Mark Saleski
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