Bassist and composer, Jamie Ousley introduces his composing and arranging mastery by collaborating with longtime friends and band mates, Pianist Phil Strange and Drummer Larry Marshall. What we get is "O Sorriso Dela" an example of trio playing at its finest. TOP SHELF!
The title track "O Sorriso Dela" opens this project with an intoxicating, zesty melody that gets into the ear and quickly sets up shop. Upon first play, the spirits of anyone listening is surely uplifted. Plenty of time is allotted for solo exploration around this happy tune. Mr. Strange is adeptly selective of his notes; like a hunt and peck typist, carefully, deliberately choosing only the right notes. Absolutely no correction tape needed. The intensity builds with the control of a musician clearly focused on his creative expression. Soloing is then turned over to Mr. Ousley who deftly describes "O Sorriso Dela", (Portuguese for "Her Smile") by recanting the melody then dancing about with the excitement of a child playing with a new friend. Larry Marshall is offered the stage on Drums. Mr. Ousley chooses a vamp chorus that supports a tasteful, expressively-developed percussion exploration. End game yields various cymbal colors and amazingly clean, syncopated "ghost note" playing teasing but never tripping the listener. "O Sorriso Dela" is surprisingly delightfully fresh composition.
The hypnotic and trance-like second number is entitled "Someone." Mr. Ousley entices a question: "Who is this someone?" If as beautiful as the composition, what a sight this "Someone" must be. The trio is never in a hurry; the reveal is dramatic in its deliberation, offered with patience and passion.
Trio waltzes are risky, especially when played up tempo. Speed can eliminate open space and cramp creative freedom. With the composition "Helen’s Tune", the group combines a Vince Guaraldi-like feel with a Claude Boling, formal and classical approach delivering a clean and captivating performance. It might even invoke a desire to grab a light-footed partner and give the dance floor a go.
Luscious bass lines, offer the deep-noted melody of "T.I.E Trio" which is framed in a subtle blues. Once again the trio adopts a wait and see attitude. No fuss, no rush to reach a finish line. After the initial melodic statement, Mr. Ousley takes control of the rudder which enables "follow the leader" interplay with piano and drums weaving in and out of the solid bass controlled foundation. Musical freedom, recognized and used tastefully makes for great art. Bass gets a stab at the soloing and lyrical is the style delivered. Mr. Ousley’s engages the listener in a straight-forward conversation. Clean and articulate. What else is needed? Just a simple applause. Next Mr. Marshall’s drumming is released to convey his message. Drum solos should be about well placed choices that mix space, speed and dynamics that create a compliment to the composition. Not always delivered in this critic’s opinion. But here, as with the opening tune, graceful syncopation is at the core of the playing.
"Solveg’s Song" by classical composer Edvard Grieg is chosen next and starts with a soothing and rolling introduction. The rich sound of acoustic bass emerges from the coaxing of the bow. The melodic helm is then handed to the piano. Mr. Strange puts his paint to the canvas. The result: A truly inspiring performance. PLEASE STOP AND LISTEN.
On to another Latin-inspired composition, "Make It Spicy". These guys are so at ease together. Regardless of style, the trio is never "in your face" with technique or too much playing. This is special music created from a special relationship among the artists. Everyone stretches out with intense use of dynamics which produces a balanced, expressive performance while maintaining composure.
More beautiful bow work welcomes "Epiphany". The bass sings as if in sorrow, mourning a loss of something painfully important. Mr. Strange then picks up the pieces and states "all is not lost." Ah the epiphany: out of sadness can emerge a spark of hope and positive expectation. Back to Mr. Ousley who plays as if hearing the message. Life goes on; wise are those that look for the good in any sorrowful situation. Again, JUST STOP AND LISTEN.
Mr. Ousley closes this wonderfully artistic project by giving respect to his home state of Tennessee. Listen closely to the bass, interpretation of the Redd Stewart and Pee Wee King composition, "Tennessee Waltz" recorded live at the University of Miami, Broby Hall. There is no place like home, is there?
Trio music is special, like an equilateral triangle, each side support the other two, no one part more important than the other. On this recording, Jamie Ousley delivers great music that needs to be recognized, sought out, and applauded. Jamie Ousley, Thank you for sharing your special gifts.