|Most jazz trios, especially of the piano, bass and drums variety, are focused on one of the musicians (i.e. The Pick Your Name Trio). Mem3s Pennsylvania Grey is an exception to that rule on many levels. For this project, Seattles Michael Cabe (piano), Torontos Ernesto Cervini (drums) and Australias Eric Lau (bass), who are all established artists in their own right, combine their writing and musical talents by contributing three original compositions each. The only non-orignal piece included is a traditional hymn. The result is an album that accurately displays each of their talents without any one dominating over the other.
Skydrol, a Cabe composition, has him playing in an up-tempo, active and melodic style, while Cervini and Lau complement this with a matching backbeat. Tragic Interruption gives Cabe more space to work with laidback tones while Lau is focused with his bass textures throughout this piece. Cervini then takes over with a drumming onslaught at the end of the piece. The title track has the mood of a journey to somewhere with stops along the way represented by Cabe and Lau. Cabe builds layers of chords and melodies on this one. The sounds of Cervinis composition Cerebrau evoke an orchestra with each instrument playing like a drum with its constant rhythm changes. Cabes notations interact with Cervini and they both get intense on this number. Not to be outdone, Laus composing influences begins the concluding section of the CD with the two ballads Thankfulness and Mashishi. Lau and Cabe merge with Cervini playing some interesting percussive styles at certain points. The hymn Abide With Me in which all three swing the song with obvious gospel and blues styles, finishes the album off. This piece is an optimistic end to a brilliant release.
Though there are various influences, Pennsylvania Grey is still unapologetically contemporary in its approach. This is a great example of what can happen when three heads are truly used instead of one.
by R.C. May 2008