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Inventions Trio: Delaware River Suite

Inventions is a different piano trio: Bill Mays on piano, Marvin Stamm on trumpet and flugelhorn, and Alisa Horn on cello. Delaware River Suite is a different album: a seven-part musical and spoken-word pastorale about a river.

Mays wrote the music and the words for the suite, but pieces by other composers are appended before and after it, chosen because they “fit the mood and the musical scenery.” On Jobim’s “Zingaro” and Reinhardt’s “Nuages,” the exceptional musicianship of these three players is evident, and the expressive capabilities of their distinctive ensemble blend, with its contrasting timbres.

But the suite is rather a chore. The spoken sections by Mays and Horn are described as “campfire stories.” Their bad grammar and countrified slang sound self-conscious. The overall effect is a little like Prairie Home Companion and more like narrated musical shows you were forced to sit through in high school assemblies. Musically, too many stops along the Delaware River (“Rollin’ Down the Water Gap,” “Float,” “Shohola Hoedown”) are cute or silly or corny, respectively.

Originally Published