By J.D. Considine | Published September 2022
If the mainstream jazz combo were distilled to its essence, what remains would likely be a piano trio. So it’s no surprise that would be the format drummer/composer/polymath Tyshawn Sorey would choose to make his statement about what he calls “the straightahead continuum” of jazz.
His songbook includes chestnuts by Horace Silver, Duke Ellington and Herb Ellis, alongside lesser-known but equally worthy work by Muhal Richard Abrams and Paul Motian, while his playmates — pianist Aaron Diehl and bassist Matt Brewer — are as grounded in tradition as they are willing to push its envelope.
Take “REM Blues,” something Duke Ellington contributed to his Money Jungle session with Charles Mingus and Max Roach. As Sorey sets out a relaxed shuffle and Brewer maintains a nicely elastic groove, Diehl states the theme with elegant finesse, a sly evocation of Money Jungle’s dynamics.
But in true Ellingtonian style, these three don’t “play the blues” while playing this blues; instead, Diehl amplifies and extrapolates on the harmony, Brewer’s solo is a narrative masterstroke and Sorey quietly illustrates the infinite possibilities of groove. It’s wonderfully simple, yet breathtakingly deep.
As is the rest of Mesmerism. There’s a shapeshifting, panoramic take on Ellis’ “Detour Ahead,” a richly lyrical, rhythmically subtle framing of Abrams’ “Two Over One” and a version of “Autumn Leaves” that understands the changes so deeply that it’s immediately recognizable despite not stating the melody. Throughout, Sorey and company underscore what makes a song great, and how much can be found within it.
Mesmerism: Enchantment; Detour Ahead; Autumn Leaves; From Time To Time; Two Over One; REM Blues. (47:53)
Personnel: Tyshawn Sorey, drums; Aaron Diehl, piano; Matt Brewer, bass.
Ordering Info: tyshawnsorey.com