Matt Moran Trio

Return Trip
Diskonife Records 006

Jeff Cosgrove

History Gets Ahead of the Story

Grizzly Music No #

Two unusual takes on the organ trio prove their unconventionality by expanding it in singular manners. Although Maryland-based drummer Jeff Cosgrove works with the genre’s traditional configuration of organ, drums and a horn, instead of sticking to the usual program of standards and warhorses, all selections were composed by bassist William Parker, with whom the drummer worked earlier in the decade. As for New York-based vibraphonist Matt Moran, he adds his instrument’s unique intonation to the familiar drum and organ backing, a blend that was explored only briefly by Johnny Lytle and Lem Winchester during Soul Jazz’s heyday.

Relaxed and more atmospheric than most organ sessions featuring guitar or horns, Moran, who leads the Slavic Soul Part has composed seven tunes that are as contemporary as his associates. Here they’re organist Gary Versace, who plays with the likes of Ellery Eskelin and Maria Schneider plus drummer Tom Rainey, who has worked with just about everyone on the contemporary scene. Meanwhile Cosgrove’s crew consists of Jeff Lederer playing tenor and soprano saxophones, clarinet and flute, and organist John Medeski famous from Medeski, Martin & Wood.

Probably the first all-Parker composition recording without the bassist, History Gets Ahead of the Story adapts the 10 tunes often extemporized by Parker’s advanced acoustic ensembles to the organ-trio format, But it’s adaptation not reduction, since the bassist’s compositions contain enough groove and grit to fit various styles. That’s why Lederer is so valuable. Putting aside his skills on other horns, when he concentrates on the tenor saxophone his lines are an amalgamation of Funk and Freebop with a soupcon of atonal Energy Music

Interpreting the Parker compositions the three capably portray warm comforting textures, jaunty child-like expositions, jabbing dissonance and greasy funk with the same acumen. A track like “Purcell’s Lament” is perfect POMO for instance, with his playing moving through modal and Middle Eastern echoes while the billowing organ lines suggest poppy Jackie Davis-like excess rather than more modern players. Meantime the mid-range “Gospel Flowers” leans more towards R&B than gospel with juddering organ riffs and subdued drum smacks as expressive Bop-like tonguing from the saxophonist reaching dog whistle-like squeaks without losing the melody, “Sometimes That’s OK” could be a pop ballad as languid, low-pitched organ pumps harmonized with mid-range clarinet vibrations, whereas treble organ swells and clarion flute peeps define “Little Bird” with timbres elevating in increments as the track evolves. “Little Bird” is also notable for a moderated drum break from Cosgrove that emphasizes hand pops and press rolls. Reserved, the drummer never pushes, but throughout the album projects necessary accents including pacing continuum, brushes-focused rhythms and relaxed shuffle beats. The concluding “Harlem” finds the trio reverting to the slippery night club emphasis that opens the set. Another riff tune, it sails along on swift organ glissandi, drum smacks and emotional saxophone bites.

More atmospheric and thematic, Return Trip’s seven tracks are also airier than those on the other CD since they’re vibes-directed. Rainey’s slapping and patterning is as timed and sensitive as Cosgrove’s, while Versace’s dual keyboard patterns are silkier and looser than Medeski’s without losing strength. Note the alternation between thicker and thinner pressure from temperate organ lines and icicle-cold reverb from Moran on “Spring”. Yet the inventive outline allows for variations plus connective resounds. Throbbing organ tones, rim shots and shuffles and metal bar arrangements frequently evolve in counterpoint. But at the same time rococo coloration and patterning asides from the vibist make the pieces more mellow and lush as one title proclaims. Meanwhile Rainey pulls off the difficult feat of providing a pliable undercurrent that complements the melodies without neglecting rhythmic direction. The most notable instance of this tripartite arrangement is on “Sometimes That’s OK”. Rim shots and hand patting from the drummer toughen the narrative as ecclesiastical organ judders and echoing vibe pops define its treble exposition. Later as the organist create a lowing continuum while outlining the theme with his other hand, cymbal accents present dramatic counterpoint. Hammond B3s might have lost their front-and-centre role to synthesizers, electric pianos and computer programming over the past few decades. These trios however affirm that much exceptional music still can be made with them.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: History: 1. O’Neal’s Porch 2. Corn Meal Dance 3. Gospel Flowers 4. Little Bird 5. Ghost 6. Moon 7. Things Fall Apart 8. Wood Flute Song 9. Purcell’s Lament 10. Harlem

Personnel: History: Jeff Lederer (tenor and soprano saxophones, clarinet and flute); John Medeski (organ) and Jeff Cosgrove (drums)

Track Listing: Return: 1. Ripples 2. Spring 3. Chord Conversation 4. Lush 5. Sometimes That’s OK 6. Effish 7. Peace and Integration

Personnel: Return: Matt Moran (vibraphone); Gary Versace (Hammond B3 organ) and Tom Rainey (drums)