The coolest part of a jazz trio is the listener can hear every note from each individual musician then the collective, as they waver, wander, and wild out on intense improvisational trips. That’s the way it went with bassist Mark Egan and his jazz contemporaries, drummer Danny Gottlieb and pianist Mitchel Forman.
This Super Trio is the crème de la crème of sidemen, having understudied with the best. You name it, they’ve been on the ride: Pat Metheny Group, Sting, Joan Osborne, Pat Martino, Gil Evans, Phil Woods, Astrud Gilberto, Mel Tormé, Carla Bley, John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra, Wayne Shorter, John Scofield, Gary Burton, Diane Schuur, Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Clark Terry… The list, it’s never-ending, mind-blowing.
Egan’s ready to spread the word about his eighth album, Direction Home (Wavetone Records), with his faithful trio. Out since March 25th, the Super Trio’s Direction Home touches all the sweet spots, reminding the listener of Allan Holdsworth and a mellowed-out Pat Metheny. The nine original compositions — most of them generated from the vantage point of the piano — seem to trace the same billowy pattern of a lot of past and post adult contemporary artists, too — from Sting to Keith Jarrett, an eclectic bunch.
“Both ‘Mountain People’ and the rhythmically tricky ‘After Math’ feature those gospel-infused piano flourishes by Forman while the more delicate ‘Gratitude’ has him channeling his inner Bill Evans in a ‘Flamenco Sketches’ vein. The funky and exuberant opener ‘Summer Fun’ features the pianist in earthy and riveting piano performances that recall the soul-jazz leanings of Ramsey Lewis and Les McCann. He pushes the harmonic envelope on his adventurous solo on ‘Jungle Walk’ while at times alluding to the adventurous stylings of Ahmad Jamal and the gospel-tinged vamping of Keith Jarrett,” JazzTimes’ Bill Milkowski reviewed April 4, 2015, via Wavetone’s Press Page. “‘On my previous recording, Mitch alternated between piano and Fender Rhodes, and he also played synths on a few tracks,’ says Egan of About Now . ‘This time out I decided to continue exploring with the trio with an all acoustic piano instrumentation. I feel that the music evolved in many ways to be more progressive, collectively featuring more extended solos both harmonically and rhythmically. In general we took more chances with Direction Home.’”
What Egan, Gottlieb, and Forman do with the nine original compositions speaks louder than the remnants of a homeless pop base or an adult jazz-fusion found in countless derivative bands since Holdsworth’s hold on diminishing returns.
Egan plays a whirlwind on his fretless electric bass, his easy intensity showing through. Gottlieb and Forman accompany his search for the right grooves home, without throwing the whole journey off-kilter. They’re strolling the personal storms and the strange, strangulated jungles together, acknowledging the passing of the bassist’s mom (the moving ballad, “Gratitude”) and the devastation of Hurricane Sandy (“After The Storm,” considerable in its breadth).
In many ways, the trio’s doing more than investigating the tricks of the trade (6/8’s “Mountain People,” the rhythmic configuration of “After Math”). They’re conveying the deepest of emotion as only musicians living in the wordless notes can, through compelling geysers and sensitive shifts — hot off the charts.