Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Concert Experience- Danny Fox Trio

Check out "Wide Eyed".
This past Friday the 13th I did not stay inside watching horror movie marathons. For one, these movies always seem to scare me a little too much, and secondly I decided to take this opportunity to go out to hear some live jazz! I went to the Lily Pad in Cambridge to hear the Danny Fox Trio celebrate the release of their album Wide EyedThe band, features pianist Fox,  bassist Chris van Voorst van Beest and drummer Max Goldman.

Formed in 2008, the Danny Fox Trio is a true working band from New York. Though rooted in jazz, the three versatile musicians are also active in chamber music, bluegrass, Afrobeat, electro, and New Orleans funk. With such varied influences, the band challenges the traditional roles of the piano trio instruments. 

A Concert Experience- Danny Fox Trio

I have been to the Lily Pad before, and each time I go it always looks a bit different. It is a small understated space, with glittery modern art hanging against the stark white walls, flickering neon lights reminiscent of a night light, and a couple rows of benches. It looks quaint, but everyone happens to fit, and some great music comes out of such an unlikely place. 

The first song "Adult Joe" was dedicated to one of Fox's friends. His friend was named "Joey", but saw that name as too childish, so he switched it to "Joe" to be viewed as a more professional adult. From the beginning of their set I was stuck by the catchy, hip, urban vibe the trio obtains. Oftentimes melodic phrases would repeat, but change throughout their course. It was similar to a microscope going in and out of focus- you are always looking at the same thing, but you can focus on a certain element. 

The second song, "Fat Frog" was energetic from the start, and reminded me of the dance music of Fats Waller. The trio seemed to create pockets for each instrument  to come into focus and to rise and fall in intensity. "Tumble Quiet" created a relaxing, trance-like atmosphere. This trance state would change into a searching quality with forward motion from various mallets on the drums. I enjoyed the unexpected element of this song- I never really knew where it was going to go, and just when I thought it was calming down in the piano the bass and drums would rev it up. 

"Autumn Gold" interspersed pockets of sound and silence, as well as chord and discord to create a head-bopping tune. The trio seemed to communicate through a breath or a small head movement. You can tell the trio really knows each other through this sort of intrinsic communication. "Wide Eyed", the title track to their album, was a moody piece, characterized by the repetition and unison lines, as well as the bass and drum hits that happened precisely on cue. 

"Sterling" sounded like a dream, with a sort of march-like quality from the repeated bass and left hand piano parts. This piece struck me as very modern. Many people think of jazz as music for older people, but by combing multiple influences, Fox's trio creates their own sound that younger people could latch onto. The sound is fresh, hip, cool. 

Check out the trio's stop-motion video to their song "Sterling": 

"Preamble" seemed to come out of a haze, and made everything feel in stop-time. The drummer created slide effects by sliding his finger against the drums. This song  elicited a sort of patriotic vibe through its repetitious groove. 

I believe the next song was called "Croon". This song has a bluegrass, fiddle influence, and created a very "home" like feeling. I especially enjoyed when all the instruments dropped out, and the bass began a solo. The bassist had many fresh ideas, and though a cappella, he seemed to create his own sort of call and response between overlapping ideas. When the rest of the trio came back in it was like a firecracker, so much energy was built up. 

The trio ended with "Funhouse Memory", which, like the title suggests, was quite fun. The combination of dense chords as well as singular melodic lines on the piano created a variety of textures. It was especially energizing to hear how the bass and drums would line up to create a popping sound. The drums solo utilized various portions of the drums, and built up so much energy that when the groove came back in everything and everyone seemed to be jumping. 

Meet the Danny Fox Trio by checking out "Funhouse Memory":

Final Thoughts: 
The Danny Fox Trio definitely widened my eyes to what I imagine a piano trio to sound like. What's so exciting about live jazz is that it happens in the moment, and the energy comes from the music, musicians, audience, venue, everything. And I think the combination of all of the above led to some exciting music! 

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