Sometimes the gods of jazz smile upon The Music and Myth. For a while, I’ve been having a burning wish to listen to a particular type of record, but I couldn’t really define what exactly I wanted to hear. “I’ll know what I’m searching for when I find it” – that type of thing. Turns out I was looking for +1 by The GED Trio, and I knew I had found “it” from the very first chords. This record couldn’t have come at a better time for me.
Recently released by the trio of Gonzalez-Estacio-Duque, +1 is the product of a long time friendship. “Twenty years in the making” as the band likes to say. That translates into exemplary interplay and a seemingly effortless fluidity of the music. Overall, this is one of the most well-balanced bodies of work I’ve come across in fifteen years of listening to jazz (and other types of complex, quality music). But let’s start from the beginning.
+1 opens with “Daedalus”, whose sound instantly reminded me of Paul Kogut’s Turn Of Phrase. That is already saying something, since Turn was in my opinion the best instrumental record of 2012 (unfortunately, one year before I decided to create The Music and Myth Awards). The band’s chemistry is similar but their sound is less reliant on syncopation and with a heavier accent on melody. In the spirit of “So That Happened”, “Daedalus” wastes no time introducing the listener to the band in a way that feels very symmetrical. Each of the musicians gets his time in the spotlight, starting with guitarist Luiz Gonzalez, whose “light as a feather” approach is sublimely lyrical without ever falling into the dreaded “smooth” end of the spectrum. His solo slides directly into Pablo Estacio’s, whose bass is clean and angular and manages to summon up some of the richness of the double-bass – an admirable fact for a musician who has apparently not had much experience with jazz (as per the band’s press release). All the while, Jose Duque provides the backbone of the track with complex and discerning – this time decidedly jazz-influenced – percussion.
The next track is “Aprieta el Boton” which continues much in the same vein as “Daedalus”. Though still pleasant and melodious, I was starting to fear that the repetitious structure of the music (which works as an introduction but can quickly become formulaic) was going to start being tedious as the album advanced. Luckily, guest musician Julio Andrade completely obliterated my apprehension with a splendid saxophone solo that demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt the band’s understanding of a dynamic musical narrative. It reminded me of Alex Simu’s well-timed clarinet input on Sebastian Spanache Trio’s “Meditation”. Still, the highlight of the song for me was another excellent guitar solo by Gonzalez.
“Counterpoint Café” conjures up the spirit of Marc Ribot’s popular Cubanos Postizos – especially the combination of Estacio’s bass and Duque’s standout drumming – with Gonzalez acting as a more toned-down version of Ribot. This song is also a great example of the composers’ knowledgeable use of “silence”, with the perfectly timed muted fractions-of-a-second inviting the listener to “fill in the blanks”, thus extending the narrative landscape.
“Tres-Nocho” is a delightful ballad with a late-night Florida summertime vibe, where Duque gives another masterful display of percussion while guest musician Otmaro Ruiz produces a more than satisfying solo on keyboards. “El Gato” starts like your run-of-the-mill “Latin” song (I can picture Sofia Rei rolling her eyes at the term) but quickly turns into a particularly enjoyable festival of syncopation, mostly courtesy of Gonzalez and Duque. Their instruments orbit around Estacio’s well-timed bass solo while Andrade’s sax sounds almost Balkan and gives the song a nice feeling of unpredictability.
“The Fragility of Hope” is saved from becoming just a generic ballad by a sleek guitar solo that transitions into an equally smooth piano solo from guest musician Victor Mestas while “Viaje al Centro del Tiempo” once again shows the band’s great timing and interplay via the awesome interaction between Estacio and Duque. The closing track, “Feel and Perceive” is designed as an epilogue but it doesn’t really feel like much more than a short harmonious farewell. Perhaps it doesn’t have to be.
Overall, the listener is left wanting more through the sheer cohesiveness of the instruments throughout and the praiseworthy quality of the compositions. Truly, my only slight criticism is not even connected to the music. I’m just not a fan of titles that are too straightforward or dramatic (see: The Fragility of Hope, Feel & Perceive, Viaje al Centro del Tiempo). But when the only bad thing a reviewer can say about your record is “I don’t really like some of the titles”, you know you’ve produced quality, plain and simple. I remember reading in the press release that +1 was just supposed to be a demo CD for the band to use as a calling card for their gigs, but that they ultimately decided that the songs were just too good not to turn into an album. Well, The Music and Myth wholeheartedly agrees. This just goes to show that some works of art just need to exist and will simply find a way to come into being.
As a body of music, +1 is just right. Nothing is exaggerated and nothing is left out; everything sounds like it’s in the right place, which is surprisingly rare and incredibly refreshing. Initially setting out to create a demo, the GED Trio have shaped a rare instrumental gem that combines timing, technique and melody. An early candidate for The Music and Myth Award for best instrumental record, so check back January 2016!