Moons is their third album and the complete team of Chris Donnelly (piano), Dan Fortin (bass) and Ernesto Cervini (drums) along with Peter Cardinali (producer) and John “Beetle” Bailey (engineer). For some musicians, that level of comfort could lead to creative catastrophe, for Myriad3, it is a recipe for creative conversation.
Bassist Dan Fortin spoke of the first two albums—2012’s Tell and 2014’s The Where—saying, “the material here is pretty different, and I’d say more thoroughly composed that The Where. I believed we have evolved with each album.” Pianist Chris Donnelly added, “Tell is rather a live off the floor record, with The Where being more of a transition to where we are now with Moons.”
The pieces on Moons are agonizingly brief, the longest tracks (two of them) being only 5:33. It makes for intense performance and listening. Themes are often introduced then developed quickly while other pieces have a slower development but are gone too soon.
The album begins with Donelly’s Skeleton Key. It is very emotional, even with its rather strident pacing. Donnelly’s piano is matched is mirrored by Fortin’s bass. Cervini maintains a determined half-shuffle while the piano right-hand carries the theme upward. Listen to the bass line in the final two minutes with the drums in locked rhythms. This is the next evolutionary step for Myriad3 and for Jazz.
Noyammas is a cool bass dialogue with piano and bass, written by Ernesto Cervini. Cervini is the most aggressive while the piano and bass are more exploratory. The piano begins to develop in different directions from the bass with the result that a triadic conversation takes place.
One thing that Noyammas allows is the focused hearing on each instrument. They are collectively marvelous but individually just as exciting.
Unnamed Cells is by Chris Donnelly. The piano’s doubled chords are complemented by the two-note motif from the bass as Cervini knocks down the beat. This is a fascinating piece. Donnelly creates a brief eight-note motif with each note played in quads while the bass locks in at 8x. Then the theme notes are played in 16x by the piano. It is a musical mapping of the division of cells, notes (like cells) multiplying exponentially. Intuitive? Sure, but this is the stuff of the intellect, as well. And I like it.
Dan Fortin wrote Stoner. It is slowly, almost contemplatively, paced. The intricate changes follow the lines that pass for logic in this state of thinking. Mellow and open, the approach allows great space for thoughtfulness and imagination. The piano’s right-hand arpeggio serves as a platform from which the bass and drums jump off. The music settles and comes to rest.
Fortin gets two-in-a-row as the composer of the following piece, Peak Fall. It has to be said again that this trio has developed a rapt rapport with each other and Cardinali and Bailey (this should be called a quintet) know exactly what to do with what the trio lays down.
The bass lines are smart and spot-on with Cervini in great support with the brushes. Donnelly provides the gentler piano melodies. It is not “smooth” (mostly because that makes you think of Kenny G) but it is meditative and emotional.
Counter of the Cumulus is the only piece not written by the trio. Rather, it is written by electronic master Disasterpeace. It is forward and adventurous with a strong link to music history. Well-written and performed with precision, it is a work that shows a commitment to the advancement and development of Jazz for the future.
The trio opens in unison, with bass and drums strident with the piano. The piano immediately erupts into a furious arpeggio from the left while laying down a beautiful melody on the right. This is fantastic stuff. Bass and drums and left-hand piano just hammer the rhythm while the piano turns the melody into a Baroque two-part invention.
The pounding passes into something lyrical and thoughtful—like the sweet smell of rain after the thunderstorm.
That sweetness continues into Cervini’s Ameliasburg. It is a fine melody brought to life by piano and bass as the brushes and cymbal washes paint a picture of rainy streets. It is like an interlude in a movie drama. Beautiful.
Sketch 8 is by Chris Donnelly. The bass and drums are in full-force as the piano lays down a three-note idea that lightens the sounds. The drum then adopts a military beat and the bass and piano move into something more Jazzy. Even with the three-note motif continuing, the melodic line follows a cool idea and the bass follows.
Ernesto Cervini wrote the title track, Moons. It is one of the two longest pieces on the album and thank the moon for it. Not precisely haunting, it is more of a space-age nocturne with reflective imagery and thoughts of the future. There are passages of sheer loveliness as the piano moves alone trough the void.
After the midway point, the bass moves alongside with a delicate propulsion as the brushes are added ever-so-lightly. This was a slowly developing piece as the drums are fully heard with only one minute left in the track. The bass (with the cool effects) also reaches its zenith with not much time left and the piano closes the song as it began.
Brother Dom is also by Cervini. It is based on odd beats and Jazzy breaks and the melody emerges with smart rhythms. Eventually, the piano is just as percussive as the bass and drums and the melody is swallowed up in rhythm. A nice groove is woven in and out of the piece. Nicely constructed.
Exhausted Clock by Dan Fortin closes the album. The clock’s ticking is heard breaking down and turning into brush work by Cervini before Donnelly brings the melody alive, Fortin close at hand. The melody is a charming line and the bass lines are beautiful. It is like life slowing to stillness.
Myriad3 has achieved something truly remarkable with Moons. The intuitive understanding between the trio and the loose structure of many of the pieces allow them to present, develop and conclude delightful musical ideas in their own pace. Pointed to the future, Myriad3 believes in the present life of Jazz and strengthens it for the move to come.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl