3 Play +

American Waltz

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    7
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AllMusic Review by

The waltz form is not the exclusive domain with which 3 Play + express themselves, but classicism and a sense of European tradition are clearly heard in their concept of modern jazz on this recording. The group borrows from composers influential in their upbringing in contemporary jazz, and this lends to the charted music sporting great depth and substance. The lesser-known figure of the group is pianist Josh Rosen, but he has the say as the exclusive writer and ostensible leader of the group. He's also collected prime figures of the Boston jazz scene, including lead trumpeter Phil Grenadier, bassist Lello Molinari, drummer Marcello Pellitteri, and veteran guests like guitarist Mick Goodrick and tenor saxophonist George Garzone. Recorded at the Berklee School of Music where these players have studied, instructed, or both, the music has a clean, linear factor with space for tangential improvisation. At-times angular ideas, modal frames, or ethnic diversions enter into the picture, making for music that is consistently interesting. Grenadier is impressive throughout, leading during the free bop of the collectively composed "Happy Cramping" where Rosen injects quick elfin steps, or on the serene, country-styled title track and the non-plussed "How Do I Know What I Don't Know," with its easy, lightly sauced sound. Modern jazz fans will easily recognize how the group adapts the Sonny Rollins' evergreen "Oleo" into the fun and witty "Buttah" with even more extreme Thelonious Monk-like edginess. "Be a Battery" is modified from Carla Bley's "Walking Batterie Woman" with inebriated, staggered phrasings and more spatial holes than swiss cheese in its facade. "Soupy's Coming Home" is the most endearing track, a 7/8 neo-bop modal piece that expresses frivolous humor, while the nearly 21-minute "Bulletrain" is a free to speedy, slowed discourse merging into lumbering funk featuring Goodrick. There's talent aplenty in this excellent group of seasoned musicians who play purposefully and offer a unique viewpoint within contemporary progressive jazz. This music should not be confined only to connoisseurs of the New England/Cape Cod scene.

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