PROJECT TRIO the third CD by the chamber ensemble from Brooklyn, NY is a glorious celebration of the music of our time. I say this in part because it is young musicians integrating original compositions with some real classics, "Blue Rondo a la Turk" and "Sweet Child O'Mine" are the examples. But what is amazing is that a flute player, a bassist and a cellist bring together in this CD the elements of classical music, jazz and popular music in a seamless and thoroughly entertaining way. I was captivated from the first note of "Dr. Nick" until the last strains of the great Guns n' Roses tune, "Sweet Child O'Mine".
Project Trio is Greg Pattillo on flute, Eric Stephenson on cello, and Peter Seymour on bass, with an appearance by Mark Gurarie on vocals on the excellent beat poetry styled "City of Dreams", a Brooklyn story. The trio began to fuse into this musical reality over thirteen years ago when they meet at the Cleveland Institute of Music. After working with famed ensembles including the Cleveland Orchestra and the Houston Symphony, PROJECT Trio got it's big break in 2006 when Patillo's groundbreaking beatbox flute videos were featured on YouTube showcasing a key part of the band's unique sound. After over 40 million views, PROJECT Trio's YouTube Channel, "Freedomworksfilm", has amassed a following of over 50,000 subscribers. Patillo has been lauded by The New York Times as "the best person in the world at what he does".
All that being said, I am just a lowly jazz reviewer and I look for one thing and one thing only when I review CDs...listenability! Can I, or better yet will I pick this CD from a shelf of hundreds to listen to? Will PROJECT Trio get a high play count on my iPOD? Yes and Yes again to these questions. I was totally hooked after about a minute of "Dr. Nick", the first track on the CD. But it just kept getting better, and for me, sealed the deal with "Blue Rondo a la Turk" the Dave Brubeck legendary composition that is part of his "time" series. The key to that tune is to be true to the time experiment in all aspects of delivering the song. PROJECT Trio were aware of that importance of time, but were so tight they sounded like one instrument, Stephenson's bow was like the conductor's baton, and Pattillo's flute work was impeccable. They took a time-worn classic (no pun intended!) and made it vital again.
But lets not forget the beautiful compositions of the PROJECT. The mix of genre in these compositions and the energy and visual nature of their delivery harkens to their classical roots. The ability to paint a scene with the texture of the melodies and rhythms is a tribute to the educational background that these musicians bring to the project. "3 Movie Scenes" is an example of that beauty in execution.
"City of Dreams" wakes you up after the mellow "3 Movie Scenes"! But when you listen to the lyrics, and the tempo of the delivery, accented by flute and cello, you have "theater in the sound". The track is so relevent, and dramatic, it exudes energy, swagger, and cool.
When I first thought of how visual the music of PROJECT Trio is I was not expecting them to name a track "Visual Machine", but what better track name than one that captures the essence of what they can create with their music. Visual tracks of sound, waves of energy and warmth that roll over you. They ride on the pulses of Seymour's bass, and are kicked along by Pattillo's flute, and the way is maintained by Stephenson and the quickened pulse of his brilliant bow work.
"Grass" was a real treat for me in that it hearkens back to my first flute listening experience provided by Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull. That being said, the track was full of the dynamics of Jean-Pierre Rampal and when I listened to the interchange of Pattillo and Stephenson I was transported to another milestone in my listening career, when I first heard that great jazz work "Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano". The music of PROJECT Trio is so rich with the patterns of the music we love, and yet the fabric has been changed. Threads of the known are mixed with threads of this new creation and they blanket you with the familiar and yet take you to places you have never been. That, to me, is the essence of musicianship. They have their notes, their technique, their cumulative learnings and from that point, they become creators. They make the familiar unfamiliar, they lead us on a journey, challenge our senses to recall the motifs of the past but leave us in a place of the new.
No track better exemplifies PROJECT Trio's ability to transport us than the last track, "Sweet Child O'Mine". This is a track that I challenge any listener to imagine what they might do with it, really think about what a flute, cello and bass might do with a Guns n' Roses song of any title, then listen. If you were even remotely close to what they came up with, then you are one creative person! Because I was blown away by the way they stayed true to the power of the song, while giving it a whole new sensitivity.
PROJECT Trio and their latest work Project Trio are entertaining! They have a mission that transcends the music and touches humanity by bringing music to the kids, to the streets, to the masses. They do it so well that we all should get with the PROJECT and encourage this level of creativity and entertainment for the sake of all of us!