Lucid Culture


Getting Unspooled

Jazz trio Unspooling‘s debut album Scot Free– streaming at Bandcamp – is ambitious bordering on hyperactive: pianist Julia Chen is tireless to the nth degree. This isn’t your typical trio album, either. There aren’t a lot of big solo moments, and the rhythm section – bassist Matt Adomeit and drummer Nate Friedman – aren’t frequently engaged in a particularly colorful way. Yet this is sophisticated music, the group have a sense of humor and reach for a wide expanse of ideas and moods. Getting there is sometimes a work in progress.

They open it with Shrimpy, a persistent, steady tune, at least in the sense that there are either tightly triangulated polyrhythms or a steady clustering forward drive. It also doesn’t breathe: a musical airshaft or two wouldn’t have hurt.

The album’s title track is a suspiciously blithe stroll, with echoes of Donald Fagen and some wryly cascading flourishes. Chen’s piano manages to escape a pervasive, toxic, heavily processed cloud of bass to give Bad Morning some obviously long-awaited, sober closure. The three go back to tricky, interwoven rhythms in Immaculate Conception, Chen skirting blues and gospel allusions.

The eerie, stairstepping close harmonies as she introduces the somber ballad Big Misunderstanding are a cool touch, as is the bass/piano interweave in the pastorally-tinged Moose Trial (they’re good with song titles). Cultural Appropriation is a slyly catchy salsa-jazz strut, while the group shift up the metrics in the distantly Monk-tinged Barman.

Chen moves to Rhodes over a steady swing shuffle for the blippy Soymilk Savior. The band’s eponymous epic track finally coalesces around a welcome detour down to the catacombs and then an even creepier, music box-like finale: this is where the trio really excel at creating an atmosphere.

Back on Rhodes for Second Chance, Chen builds bright latin soul ambience over Friedman’s steady clave and playful offbeats. The album’s strongest overall number is perhaps ironically its simplest, most lingering one, Just Fine, a syncopated Rhodes soul tune. They close with the hypnotically minimalist New and Old. There’s genuine talent and promise here: giving the music a little space would be a good jump-off point.

July 12, 2020 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , ,

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