Friday, March 17, 2017

The Wee Trio Wee + 3

The Wee Trio
Wee + 3
Bionic Records

A new album from The Wee Trio, a Brooklyn, NY based group comprised of vibraphonist James Westfall, bassist Dan Loomis and drummer Jared Schonig. The trio is known for transcending musical genres in their material, but with their latest release they recruited colleagues Nicholas Payton (trumpet), Nir Felder (guitar) and Fabian Almazán (piano) to appear as guest soloists on individual tracks.

Discussing the guest artists, Loomis explains "Nicholas Payton is the prelude to our story as a band. We say that the trio connects so well because we had listened to so many of the same records. Mr. Payton's music was definitely an important part of all our lives. His playing, his intention as a bandleader, and his compositions were important building blocks for all of our own musical conceptions and development. Nir Felder is the present tense in the story of the band. We all met Nir very soon after we moved to the city and played with him a lot in our first years here. Our encounter with Fabian Almazán is a look to the future. Jared has known Fabian for a several years, but James and I just started playing with him for this project. Fabian plays with relentless creativity that really brings out the best side of the band. We love to play familiar material and take a lot of risks with it - push it to see what new options we can find hidden in it. With Fabian we got a chance to expand that approach to a quartet setting and bring it some new material that we wrote especially for him."

The trio opens with a chamber jazz mood with guitarist Felder on "R T 3." His guitar and Westfall's vibes initially mesmerize. Felder's solo quietly builds its heat with supple support from Loomis and Schonig. He is also heard on the closing two tracks, "Gibbs Street" and "Apparition," with marvelous interplay with Westfall, and the seamless backing from Loomis and Schonig.

With pianist Almazán, "Titan Up" is a brief, quite energetic performance followed by another performance with him, "Climb," where he displays his facility and imagination as he takes off from the somewhat reflective opening to very spirited mode followed by lively playing from Westfall. "Redwood" is a tribute to the California Redwood groves, with pianist Almazán joining on a performance of a composition that attempts to grasp the expansiveness of the feeling of walking there of being in an endless horizontal and vertical space.

Nicholas Payton is heard on a blues, "Sabotage," and then "No Justice," playing exquisitely, imaginatively and lyrically as he constructs his solos which serve as the take off for Westfall's own (marimba on "Sabotage" and vibraphone on "No Justice"). "Belle Femme De Voodoo," the last selection with Payton evokes a New Orleans parade with Payton's playful solo incorporating growls and slurs against the bouncy rhythm.

The one cover is Meshell Ndegeocello's "Lola," that Schonig arranged with Loomis bass providing the center of the performance before Westfall takes off on his solo. It is one of the two trio performances on this latest release from The Wee Trio. With their accomplished guests they have provided another fresh and highly engaging recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist.This review originally appeared in the March-April Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 371). Here is the Wee Trio with Fabian Almazán performing "Titan Up."

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