Friday, March 15, 2013

The dense, driving chamber jazz of the Danny Fox Trio

Posted By on 03.15.13 at 02:00 PM

Danny Fox Trio
  • Joe Turner Lin
  • Danny Fox Trio
New York pianist Danny Fox brings his nimble trio to Chicago for the first time on Sunday, performing at the Hungry Brain. Fox is largely a self-taught musician, and while attending Harvard he earned a degree in psychology. But when he moved back to New York after graduating magna cum laude, he turned his energy back toward music, studying with classical pianist John Kamitsuka as well as with Ethan Iverson of the Bad Plus. Those two musicians figure heavily in the sound Fox forged on his trio's 2011 album The One Constant (Songlines).

The structural experimentation of the Bad Plus is definitely suggested by Fox's intricate formations with drummer Max Goldman and bassist Chris van Voorst van Beest. The trio's label calls its music "modern chamber jazz," and the group certainly doesn't operate like a typical jazz piano trio, yet when I think of chamber jazz I usually imagine something more gentle and small sounding. Goldman doesn't play with the rock bombast of Bad Plus drummer Dave King, but he is a seriously propulsive force. Fox's original compositions are episodic, rigorously arranged, and generally eschew the usual song forms employed in mainstream jazz. Any improvisation is woven tightly into the general sonic fabric—solos here aren't break-out propositions but spontaneous motions meticulously wedded to dense, largely through-composed arrangements. His pieces also rely heavily on motific development throughout an entire piece, a la classical music. And while there's more than a little of Thelonious Monk's knotty tunefulness in Fox's writing, the influence of classical sensibilities is just as apparent (he's cited Scriabin and Messiaen as factors in his current sound).

Fox and his partners are all working musicians in New York, but this trio requires heavy rehearsing to keep the music's moving, overlapping parts fluid. According the press materials the group spent three years developing this material, and it shows. Below you can check out the album's lively opening track, "Next Chapter."

Today's playlist:

Jimmy Witherspoon, Spoon So Easy: The Chess Years (Chess)
Charlie Palmieri and Meñique, Con Salsa y Sabor (Cotique/Fania)
Hélène Labarrière, Les Temps Changent (Émouvance)
Seldon Powell, Go First Class: The Complete Roost Sessions (Fresh Sound)
Audun Automat, Inside the Beehive (Pling)

Peter Margasak writes about jazz on Fridays.

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