Pianist Adam Kromelow has long studied karate, and upon reading that little fact I could immediately draw a parallel between the disciplined power and fluidity of the martial arts and Kromelow’s music as he presents it on the debut release by Adam Kromelow Trio, Youngblood. A trio completed by Raviv Markovitz (acoustic bass) and Jason Burger (drums), former classmates at Columbia University and Manhattan School of Music, they attack their music with the confrontational aggression of The Bad Plus, wearing their affection for both rock and even classical on their sleeves.
The Trio does play jazz on Youngblood and lots of it, but many times, it seems incidentally so, an outgrowth of their formal studies than being due to a real desire to be a real jazz combo. Like the Neil Cowley Trio, they’re rock musicians in jazz clothing, but also like Cowley’s group, the duds are fancy. The songs only go beyond go beyond the five minute mark occasionally and none reach six, but a lot is packed into those precious minutes. Kromelow loves to creatively pull apart melodies and then glue them back together again; something he manages to do without falling flat on his face for Thelonious Monk’s impossible melody of “Brilliant Corners.” He’s just as apt to do that for his own songs, such as “Mojo,” which is really a blues-based jazz in the most traditional sense, but begins with fractured parts of melody that are pieced together when rest of band enters, only to get diced up again in the middle of the song.
The rock band leanings really come out roaring on the dramatic and sometimes furious “Black Mamba” and “Upgrade” tunes that bookend the album, showing off the AKT’s penchant for climatic crescendos,. “Bushido” is the most ambitious of those type of songs, played with thematic patterns but moving through moods and a multitude of variations on that theme, but maintains a tight focus from beginning to end.
The three covers are all situated in the middle of the record. We told you about the second of these three, “Brilliant Corners,” but that’s sandwiched by songs drawn from the pop realm. John Lennon’s mystical “Across The Universe” is the perfect peaceful song to follow the frenetic and exhausting “Bushido.” It’s reverent to original with just a couple of chords swapped out and played slower to emphasize the serene vibe of song, but surges toward conclusion as Kromelow bangs harder on his piano over a bass pulse like a human heartbeat. The melody for Peter Gabriel’s imposing “Mercy Street” also is also wisely not messed with, and rfaithful to the point where the group doesn’t even attempt to jazzify the song. They don’t need to, to be honest.
Amongst other originals, “Undercurrent” underscores Kromelow’s aptitude in putting together an urbane, esoteric melody, played lithely, at least until the end. “Mr. Pokey” is by contrast a groove song, a slow, hip hop kind of groove, and Kromelow stays right in the pocket.
With the acumen of hardened veterans paired with youthful, carefree exuberance of their ages, the Adam Kromelow Trio is another one of this power jazz trios making jazz attractive to and audience of their own generation. Except, these guys love to stretch out like the most edgy modern jazz performers. Can they still bring in the twenty and thirty somethings to jazz? Sure. It’s all in the attitude, and they have lots of that.
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