Ben McDonnell: Aleph Trio (2013)
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Featuring the building blocks of free improvisation and an earthy rock music persuasion, London based guitarist Ben McDonnell presents his engaging Aleph Trio, a bold set that's both aesthetically pure and melodically pleasing. Its in-the-moment vibe feels like a live studio recording that highlights the trio's vigor, inventiveness, and cohesiveness.
The set maintains its intimacy and rawness found in the opener "A Walk In The Rain" where McDonnell's deft facility of combining complex chord structures, exploring runs, and nifty harmonic finger taps reveal an accomplished artist/composer that can combine memorable songs with edgy themes as evinced in "Rue St Dennis" which shifts into an infectious groove-hook and plenty of open space for his trio mates to explore the changes.
The trio's craggy core is solidified by the gifts of each member, whether found in bassist Ben Bastin's spot-on accompaniment of McDonnell, and in turn, his own muscular yet empathetic solo in tracks such as "For Pa" or drummer Chris Packham's finely crafted cymbal work in "Dulcamara" which closes with him delivering a raucous solo over a satisfying repeating vamp.
Some production gloss is presented in the atmospheric closer "The Ghats" which contains the same qualities of the previous tracks but also incorporates the expanse of percussion and electronics as the trio cranks up the volume and shreds a colorful tune that sounds like a fusion inspired by Pat Metheny, Jimi Hendrix and South Indian music. With only five compositions, the program is short, but packs nice punch.
Track Listing: A Walk In The Rain; Rue St. Dennis; For Pa; Dulcamara; The Ghats.
Personnel: Ben McDonnell: guitar; Ben Bastin: bass; Chris Packham: drums.
Record Label: Self Produced
Style: Modern Jazz