Michel Gentile, Daniel Kelly, Rob Garcia – Works (2013)

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Flautist Michel Gentile, pianist Daniel Kelly and drummer Rob Garcia have all distinguished themselves as leaders of their own jazz combos and as composers, but they joined forces for a trio that’s the most visible vehicle of Connection Works, a non-profit artist-run organization created to promote jazz and build an audience for it. The trio, simply called Works, has since 2007 performed hundreds of concerts, as well as conducted master classes and workshops. They’ve seemed to have done all they can to do good deeds in the name of jazz except make a record. And now, they’ve done that, too.

The self-titled Works, which is also brought to us via Connection Works, illustrates the possibilities in music that begins with jazz, and from using tradition as a starting point but not an ending point.

This is a somewhat peculiar trio in that there’s no bass, nor any instrument that can fully cover the spot. That doesn’t mean the music comes off peculiarly, in fact the symmetry amongst the three makes this a natural meeting of the mind. What this lack of bass also means is that Garcia’s drums are exposed because there’s no one there to bridge the gap between Garcia and the front line. Far from this sending Garcia adrift, he flourishes under that spotlight, showing acumen I haven’t even heard on his own records.

That might make him the primary improviser, but the inspiration for the music presented on this record came equally from all three: each contributed three compositions and a “soliloquy,” or a brief, unaccompanied solo piece.

The approach the three take to the music is to not worry much about the boundaries the separate jazz, folk, improvised music and classical, the music drifts freely about all these style in the de facto creation of a style of their own. A cross section examination of the songs uncovers their willingness and ability to blur the lines. Garcia’s “Island” has clearly defined roles for all three: Garcia’s cageyness quickly makes one forget that there’s no bass player, as Gentile holds down the melody and Kelly locks down the harmony of a rather tasteful and delicately built composition. Another song of his, “Will,” boasts a lively, syncopated tempo, and Kelly’s active, cycling left hand holds down a spot near the bottom. The other two solo together very loosely, and then Garcia solos breezily underneath Kelly.

Kelly’s own dynamic, funky “Emanglons” is paced by his strong bass line from the piano and a sophisticated melodic development. Gentile, who is often shouldering the job of presenting the melody while the other two play freer, brought to the project the freest composition of all of them: “Voir Dire” begins with a dissonant elliptical figure, disintegrating into pure free jazz. His “Commodius Vicus” is avant chamber jazz that breaks down into simultaneous soloing by all three but this time, neither the harmony nor tempo are completely abandoned.

A democratic gathering of advanced minds in the field of jazz and adjacent entities, Works is like a master class, taken as a correspondence course. There’s no exam at the end, but the music most certainly makes the grade.

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Works will be on the street June 18, by Connection Works Records.

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 svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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