String_trio_new_york-ellington_monk_etal_span3
May 1998

String Trio of New York with Anthony Davis
Ellington, Monk, Mingus, Davis
Music & Arts

What if Django Reinhardt had been born a few decades later (and maybe lived a little longer) and immersed himself in new music with an affinity for dissonance and adventurous but musical textures? While the results might not have been exactly like what's represented here, it's close enough. The String Trio of New York, incidentally, is made up of guitarist James Emery, bassist John Lindberg and violinist Regina Carter. Guest artist Anthony Davis contributes his expansive abilities at the piano and one composition to the project.

In all probability, Ellington never heard "Caravan" treated in this manner, where opposing forces are held in such delicate balance. The melody and groove are present literally enough, while the surrounding harmonies and rhythms test convention, creating a vibrant, multidimensional acoustic environment. Approximately midway through the tune, Carter's swinging solo gives way to a piano interlude that evolves into a swirling episode that's as unpredictable as a desert sandstorm. While some of the remaining tunes are treated relatively straight (Monk's "Eronel," Mingus' "Peggy's Blue Skylight"), Monk's "Evidence" features a bold, pointillistic opening and monstrous fretwork by Emery that freely keys off of the piano. The album's centerpiece, however, is Davis' "Happy Valley Blues," an extended piece that balances composition and improvisation, resulting in contrasting moods and textures that take full advantage of the trio's vast musical resources.

Originally published in May 1998
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