Jan 6 2012
Whenever a piano trio employs electronic effects on a recording, as The South Trio does on Elegy For A Raver, unavoidable comparisons are drawn to the stylings of modern jazz legends Esbjorn Svensson Trio. That’s too simple and a bit misleading: The most alluring aspect of E.S.T. was in their delicacy, that no matter how raucous the music got, beneath it was a fragile melody. The South Trio ain’t composing songs made of china. Elegy For a Raver storms the ears with the subtlety of stadium rock, and the resulting anthems provide every excuse to bounce your head and stomp your foot.
Your album personnel: William South (piano, synth, FX), Ashley Molloy South (bass), and Eddie Hick (drums).
From the opening notes of “Balls In the Air,” the trio runs the listener over with a ferocious rhythm section and sharp piano lines; the electronic flourishes are the screeching of tires in two consecutive tunes in which the band embraces a raver aesthetic with genuine good cheer. Slurred chords are shot out with industrial precision and a party-time atmosphere dominates the album. On “Sparky Limps In,” the trio takes a modern ragtime piece and drops it into the middle of a sci-fi convention; jittering piano lines accompanied by alien laser gun effects.
Beginning with “Hand On the Pillow,” the second half of the album settles into a jazz-rock fusion not unlike Ben Allison’s body of work, layering Lego blocks of melody atop one another, with the thematic expansions building intensity through repetition and not volume.
Elegy’s claim on jazz is gonna be more for its improvisation and experimentalism than its strict adoption of tradition. It’s the kind of album that could become a focal point in the ongoing “Is it jazz?” debate. Less likely to be argued is Elegy‘s status as a fiercely ecstatic listen as it performs its balancing act on the fringes of jazz.
Released by Shift Records. Jazz from the London scene.
NOTE: It’s been nearly a couple months since I wrote the above review. I’m not nearly as hot on this album as I first was, though music discovery is often like that… go crazy over an album, and then a gradual cooling off period as the album settles in on the ears. But I have to say, as I was picking through the track choices to embed on this review reprinting, I found myself still enjoying what I heard, still found the album to be a fun listen. Elegy appears to have some staying power.
Available on Emusic.
Here’s some language to protect emusic’s rights as the first place the above review was published (in a slightly different version):
“Emusic Review: The South Trio “Elegy for a Raver““, courtesy of eMusic.com, Inc.
© 2011 eMusic.com, Inc.
My thanks to emusic for the freelance writing gig, the opportunity to use it in this blog, and the editorial freedom to help spread the word about cool new jazz being recorded today.