Hear the Tyshawn Sorey Trio +1 finesse an Ornette Coleman tune
This was already shaping up as a banner year for Tyshawn Sorey. The Philadelphia-based drummer, composer and MacArthur Fellow saw the realization of a major commission, Monochromatic Light (Afterlife) — first in Houston and then in New York. He went back on tour, with peers like Vijay Iyer. And his studio album, Mesmerism, garnered acclaim for its respectful yet revisionary take on the piano trio tradition.
Somewhere in the midst of all this, Sorey convened a special summit, his Trio +1, at the Jazz Gallery in New York. Together with pianist Aaron Diehl, his key partner on Mesmerism, this group's rhythm section included bassist Russell Hall. Featured out front — as the +1, as it were — was intrepid alto saxophonist Greg Osby, who's almost exactly 20 years Sorey's senior. By all accounts, the gig was a smashing success — but you don't need to take anyone else's word for it, because Pi Recordings is about to release a chronicle of the engagement, as The Off-Off Broadway Guide to Synergism.
Parsed into three sets, sprawling past three hours and 45 minutes, the album draws inspiration in part from the classic Greg Osby Quartet album Banned in New York, from 1997.
It features two versions of Osby's "Please Stand By," along with an array of standards and near-standards: McCoy Tyner's "Contemplation," Thelonious Monk's "Ask Me Now," Billy Strayhorn's "Chelsea Bridge," Andrew Hill's "Ashes."
And there are two takes on Ornette Coleman's "Mob Job," the second of which WRTI is proud to premiere below. Flowing directly out of Fats Waller's "Jitterbug Waltz," this piece begins with Osby testing the waters, before gradually settling into a cruising mid-tempo swing. Diehl's piano comping is thoughtful and subtly provocative, while Hall sets a fulcrum against which Sorey can push and pull as he pleases. (Listen for his nonverbal vocalizing at a heated moment in Osby's solo, at around 3:15.) When Diehl takes over, the dynamic smooths out a bit, but in a way that leaves every avenue clear.
Now about the tune itself. Perhaps you saw a New York Times feature this week titled "5 Minutes That Will Make You Love Ornette Coleman." Spearheaded by critic Marcus J. Moore, it's a collage of recommendations spanning much of Coleman's career, handpicked by an array of musicians and writers. Nobody picked a track from Song X, Coleman's collab with guitarist Pat Metheny, but that's where "Mob Job" originates. (It's a track that clocks in well under five minutes, and I would argue that it clears the bar.)
Sorey's crew takes a more muscular approach to the tune than Metheny and Coleman did in 1986, with impeccable support from bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Jack DeJohnette. Here, too, there's some personal precedent. "Mob Job" was the opening track on Osby's 2005 album Channel Three, which he made with bassist Matt Brewer and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts. It's the same album that gave us "Please Stand By," which raises the question of whether Brewer — a longtime Sorey confidant, and the bassist on Mesmerism — may have exerted a shadow influence on the repertory.
Ultimately, the only thing that matters is the execution. Sorey and his Trio +1 have no problem rising to that challenge, here and throughout their new tripartite release.
The Off-Off Broadway Guide to Synergism will be released on Friday; preorder here.