Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Let Go - Jerry Granelli Trio

Let Go

Jerry Granelli Trio
Plunge Records.

SCQ Rating: 69%

A few months ago, Pianist Vijay Iyer referred to Esperanza Spalding – fresh off her “Best New Artist” Grammy win – as “jazz famous”. This notion that jazz artists aspire to a glass ceiling far lower in rank than that of pop music icons isn’t without merit; since 1959 – the so-called peak year for jazz – it has become tougher and tougher to point out any living jazz musician today who would be considered a household name. Not only is Jerry Granelli “jazz famous” as an elder statesman, he’s Canadian as well, making the lack of attention around his recent output all the more bewildering. Where last year’s 1313 marked Granelli’s solo debut as an experimental minimalist, Let Go finds him joined in improvisation by Simon Fisk (bass/cello) and Danny Oore (saxophones) to good effect.

‘Bones’ gets off to a particularly lumbering start, saxophone calling out and percussion stuttering along, but the arrangement eventually finds its footing along a creeping bass line and the trio’s framework is laid. Subsequent tracks confirm that initial impressions will playfully mislead: ‘Dango’ and ‘Leaving 1313’ build from bare instrumentation to satisfying interplay while ‘Solaria’ undergoes several movements (one featuring the welcome vocals of Mary Jane Lamond) before arriving at a rhythmic finale. It’s arguably the album’s highlight for its ambition alone, something that latter tracks (‘Under a Chinese Saloon’, 'A Chinese Saloon') rarely involve. At times, Let Go’s restraint almost sounds as though each of the performers was backing off, waiting for someone else to take the lead.

For a country that unabashedly pedestals the success of lite-jazz queen Diana Krall, it’s strange that Canada doesn’t offer any spotlight to interesting avant-garde projects like Granelli’s. Although his work on 1313 feels special for its insistence on solo drum excursions, Granelli’s better off in a trio where mournful sax and probing bass occasionally take the pressure off his percussive talents. Although occasionally meandering, Let Go is another dark-horse release for listeners willing to jump back into jazz’s carnal, organic appeal.

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