Guitarist Will Sellenraad has known drummer Eric McPherson since they were teens, more than 30 years ago in New York City. Back then, bassist Rene Hart had family living across the street from Sellenraad; they started playing together in college. The trio now hang out, practice, and record in a Greene Street space that once was a painting studio for Sellenraad’s father. No wonder, then, that Greene Street Vol. 1 is suffused with familial warmth and bereft of pretension.
It has been a decade since Sellenraad’s last disc (the well-received Balance), and his virtues continue to ripen—most prominently an affinity for melody and sparse liquidity. This, along with some of the trio’s other distinctive postbop charms, is established on the shimmering opener, a cover of the title track from James Williams’ 1984 album Alter Ego. McPherson takes the lead with a crisp riff that he eventually deconstructs into breakbeat (the first of many times he dices the rhythm into jagged fragments), as Hart deploys electronic ambience that blossoms in intensity, like a horizon at sunrise. At its peak, nearly three minutes in, Sellenraad finally spools out the modest yet durable tune that anchors the song the rest of the way. Like nearly all of the transitions on Greene Street, it is elegant and seamless.
Sellenraad’s love of jazz drummers is well-known. He named his son after Elvin Jones but encourages more surgical aggression from McPherson, who feels first among equals here. His guitar work can be laconically soulful like Grant Green or incisively reflective like one of his former teachers, John Abercrombie. Each member of the trio writes at least one original (Wayne Shorter’s “Deluge” is the other cover), and the best of these is Sellenraad’s “Little El,” which is unhurried but never stops moving. Multiple resonant solos and at least one extended group improvisation are woven into the abiding fabric until the piece gradually fades out, like a horizon at sunset.
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