The members of OWL Trio—bassist Orlando le Fleming, saxophonist Will Vinson and guitarist Lage Lund—were all transplanted Europeans who’d been kicking around the New York scene for a decade or so when photographer and producer Jimmy Katz handpicked them to record in an abandoned Brooklyn church. It was a prescient move on his part: They’d played with one another and with other artists in various configurations but never before as a stand-alone unit.
There’s a natural synergy, a comfortable ease, that guides them, and a closeness that suggests the tight quarters of a small recording studio rather than the cavernous high ceilings of a church. That simpatico relationship is immediately evident in the opening track, an easygoing take on Ellington’s “Morning Glory.” Vinson’s delicate, sinuous alto runs and Lage’s twinkling chords sync and separate, all tranquil and cozy; le Fleming’s bass unassumingly moors them together. On another of the several standards here, Cole Porter’s “From This Moment On,” that same approach is given a mid-song boost, with all three kicking up a bit of dust before settling down again.
For the most part, OWL Trio’s debut stays on familiar turf—no guests, no outrageous experiments, just three exemplary players in search of the sweet spots. But they do occasionally surprise you: On guitar legend Jim Hall’s “All Across the City,” it’s Vinson, not Lund, who is the primary soloist, while the latter carries the melodic mood on Coltrane’s “Dear Lord.” And it’s the three original compositions that allow them the most freedom of all, suggesting that a sophomore effort could be very interesting indeed.