Myriad3 – The Where (2014)

Toronto’s Myriad3 is about three, bandleader-quality jazz musicians making jazz fun and imaginative again. And they’re digging deeper in their bottomless bag of tricks.

Chris Donnelley (keys), Dan Fortin (basses) and Ernesto Cervini (drums, percussion, reed, flute) put little in the way of constraints when they get together to create music; the only steadfast rule they appear to be following is that they conjure it up all together as a group. Only now, it’s even more so. Whereas 2012’s Tell was essentially seeking to capture the stage magic in the studio, The Where uses their live persona as a starting point and the studio to enhance these kernels of modern jazz songs without worrying too much about what artificial slot the final product winds up in.

Set for release September 2, 2014 on Alma Records, Myriad3’s second album goes further at the prodding of their producer and record label head Peter Cardinali. Cardinali realized this group had only scratched the surface on its potential. To push them further, songs received significant treatments after the primary recording sessions. A synth flourish added here, Cervini’s one-man horn section added there; overdubs are embraced, and in this case, push the art forward.

“First Flight” serves as a transition of sorts to this new tweak to the band’s approach. It’s at least partially through composed, but the band, especially Donnelley, finds the flexibility to stretch out and inject in-the-moment energy into the composition. “Undertow” had its beginnings as Donnelley’s solo composition “Metamorphosis.” In the hands of these three with Cardinali it transformed into a contemporary, dynamic song that’s creative in its use of the left side of the piano and Cervini’s bass clarinet to track with Fortin’s adventurous bass line. A judicious use of a little synthesizer and electric piano is present, yet this tune relies on time-honored traits for making it work.

Cervini’s “The Strong One” is a fetching ballad that one could easily make an indie rock song out of, but the three use grace and well-placed punctuation to add further depth. “Bebop Medley” is as advertised, but instead of the fragments of these classic bop-era tunes being introduced sequentially, they’re randomly interspersed throughout the performance. Mostly Other People Do the Killing nods in approval at this audacious tactic.

Cervini controls the pacing of Fortin’s “The Where” with a strong current of rhythm churning underneath Donnelley and Fortin’s soft waltz. Cervini’s glockenspiel captures the initial attention on “Little Lentil” but take a close listen to his sublime brushing of the drums as Donnelley spins the pretty melody with an unhurried ease.

The album ends strong, too. Cervini devised a song from the intriguing pattern emitted from his laundry dryer’s timer that became “der Trockner,” showing that this band embraces finding inspiration from unlikely sources. Fortin employs a cat-like bass pattern in-between Donnelly’s spare chords for his composition “Don’t You Think,” a song that’s clever in a low-key way.

There’s no sophomore slump lurking anywhere near Myriad3’s second album. The Where is a solid step up from a level that was already high. No one should think jazz is stuck on neutral after listening to this trio, and one senses that they are just getting started.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is a CPA and mid-level data analyst 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. Contact him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews.com.