Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Billie Davies Trio: All About Love.

Year: 2012

Style: Jazz

Label: Cobra Basement

Musicians: Billie Davies - drums; Tom Bone Ralls - trombone; Oliver Steinberg - bass.

CD Review: Jazz combos without chordal accompaniment (pianoless) are rareties these days- if they exist at all. Gerry Mulligan's 1950 quartet, with trumpeter Chet Baker, bassist Bob Whitlock, and drummer Chico Hamilton; along with The Sonny Rollins Trio 1957 "Way Out West"  album, featuring Ray Brown on bass, and Shelly Manne on drums, are two of the quintessential jazz aggregations that set the standard for this grouping. The Billie Davies Trio is a pianoless ensemble that manages to overcome the challenges that are inherent in such an arrangement: maintaining stimulating textures and colors without generating chaos; keeping clear harmonic structures; and eschewing loss of place by musicians and listeners. Stripping down the date's selections to their elemental harmonic and melodic form, the trio imbues each song with renewed innovative inventions that emanate from a genuine awareness and respect for their histories. The listener is treated to jazz inclinations within the trio that bristle with cutting-edge freshness.

Familiarity and accessibility ignite the listener's interest and assist the players in rising to the challenge of achieving and maintaining harmonic structure on the opening track (Stella By Starlight), Victor Young and Ned Washington's beautiful jazz standard. Trombonist Tom Bone Ralls raspy, but rounded and melodic opening solo is answered by drummer Billie Davies' tasteful, intricate, progressive polyrhythms.

It falls naturally to drummer Davies and bassist Oliver Steinberg to map out the changes clearly, leaving space for Bone Ralls' trombone to execute the melody and improvise his composition (Downtown In The Rain). However, it is the trio's reading of Miles Davis' (Jean Pierre: We Want Miles; 1981), that showed the highest level of harmonic and melodic magical interplay; achieved around the sound of Davies' Tony Williams-like time signatures and Steinberg's pulsing bass beat; giving the tune a textured, slinky strut, overlayed with Bone Ralls stupefying trombone reprise of Davis' sound, and ethereal, chant-like voicing, culminating in a Milesian, signature Harmon muted-like coda.

Drummer Billie Davies
Tom Bone Ralls plays the trombone like he's got all the time he needs; not lazy; his phrasing is well rounded, pristine, and is impacted with depth, and an inspired eloquence that is the result of his comprehensive playing experience. His interpretations of John Coltrane's (Naima), and Mongo Santamaria's Afro-Cuban classic (Afro Blue) are soulful, satisfying, and considerably informed by Davies' drumming which eschews self indulgence, instead making space for Bone Ralls to convey each tune's simple, subtle beauty with ravishing, elemental clarity.

Billie Davies stunning drumming technique and style are undoubtedly by-products of the vicissitudes attendant to her existence as a 'lifelong natural musician'; and a creative passionate focus to her music, matched only by a fierce inner muse that shepherds her personal and professional stratagems. But it is her uncanny ability to 'listen,' 'hear,' and communicate a certain emotional, common feeling to listeners, musicians, and audience, that makes her a "jazz drummer" and nourishes her boundless improvisational skills; anticipating the conversations on three of her avant gard compositions, (Green Cheese; BUrst; High Noon) between bassist Steinberg and trombonist Bone Ralls and providing context, energy and drive.

In the end, many elements make this date work; the artists, their talent, and experience; Surely Billie Davies' dream and creative endeavor to produce a sublime, genre-stretching, versatile, committed trio. But when everything is considered, tallied, and summed up; the total indicates, that it's really: "All About Love."

Track Listing: Stella By Starlight; Downtown In The Rain; Jean Pierre; Naima; Afro Blue; Green Cheese; BUrst; High Noon; Afro Blue Too; Stella By Starlight Too.

Recording Engineer: George Rada.
Mixing by Mike Davies and Billie Davies.
CD Mastering by John Vestman at Vestman Mastering.
Recording & Sound Technology/Engineering Management: Mike Davies.
A Cobra Basement Production.
Recorded at Mike & Billie Davies Studio, Hollywood, California.

Check out the Billie Davies Trio at:

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