The Owl Trio Evokes Grey Cosmopolitan Skies at St. Peter’s
Isn’t it great when you luck into finding a concert that perfectly fits the mood of the day? Yesterday evening at Jazz at St. Peter’s, the Owl Trio – bassist Orlando LeFleming, alto saxophonist Will Vinson and guitarist Lage Lund – succinctly captured the overcast milieu, playing the album release show for their debut cd, just out on the Norwegian Losen label. The trio call themselves chamber jazz, having recorded the album in an abandoned Brooklyn church. That experience no doubt prepared them for St. Peter’s cavernous sonics. Lund, when not reading the music, looked up at the grey sky lurking outside the first-floor windows overhead. LeFleming matter-of-factly filled the simultaneous roles of rhythmic center, low-register anchor and third melodic voice, always a challenge in a setting when there’s no drummer. Vinson’s crystalline, reflecting-pool tone echoed through the big room with an often poignant elegance and occasionally something of a trumpet timbre: he felt the space, and then took ownership.
The set comprised material from the album as well as a single, more upbeat tune that the group has yet to record. Duke Ellington’s Morning Glory made for a vivid, gently swinging early morning tableau, Vinson’s gentle but resolute resonance against Lund’s casual swing and LeFleming’s calm pulse. Lund, who gave it a lowlit, sprightly dancing solo, also brightened a quietly dynamite version of Jim Hall’s All Cross the City, Vinson opening this cinematic skyscape with more than a hint of suspense, building to a rewarding wary/bright dichotomy between sax and guitar. This being a church, they went deep into the mystical side of the Coltrane songbook, including an intense version of Dear Lord, LeFleming introducing it with a stately understatement, Vinson’s gently dancing lines retained an earnest, pleading intensity in combination with Lund’s judicious chordal work that did justice to the guy who wrote it. After picking up with an unexpected lilt, they wound up the set with a reflective, rainy-day take of Toninho Horta’s Moonstone. That the big room did nothing to diminish the intimacy of the performance speaks to the tightness and solidity of the arrangements and the players’ dedication to setting a mood and then maintaining it.
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