The Odd Trio stirs up familiar but still exhilarating stew with their self-produced second release, The Birth of The Minotaur (2012). With a penchant for playfully thoughtful, woven expressions on saxophone, guitar, and drums, the Odd Trio concoct a decidedly well-penned, avantjazz menu. What started out as a joyful exploration on their debut Lo-Fi Hi-Jump (reviewed here) has had its flavors deepened into a cerebral yet tuneful dish in this most recent effort.
To open, the trio head far south of their native Athens, GA to the brackish Gulfside font of American music with "Raucous Bacchus". Atop a rump-swinging rhythm from percussionist Todd Mueller, reed king Marc Gilley and loop-laying guitarist Brian Smith trade syncopated riffs beside funky blues-tinged bayous. The lead-off shuffle and Nocentelli-like guitar licks issue the calls of Mardi Gras indian chiefs with a tipsy feel; including throaty baritone sax punctuation, the track is an intoxicating pleasure referencing the Greek god it aptly venerates.
While the tongue-in-cheek "Whiskey" is experimental good fun with a discorock vibe and shredded guitar (an impossible combo?), "Sunday Morning Improvisation" closely approximates some of the Odd Trio's more subdued live musings as a free-flowing, improvised route through nebulous, sandy territory. At live shows, the resourceful Mueller, Gilley, & Smith let this kind of track pool and flow in numerous directions at once while the crowd finds a handhold for a novel journey. On record, layered themes wash over the listener in the same manner that the best orchestral music builds in waves of melodic interplay.
"Ricio de Mare" stands out as the set's most complete cut. A solid rocking introduction leads into shifting time signatures--a go-to Odd Trio technique that keeps the listener teetering edgewise. The effect is equally theatrical and bombastic, like the questionable safety of a wooden roller coaster: risky but thrilling nonetheless. Gilley's soprano soars, casting shadows around the cymbal-flecked landscape, while Smith and his guitar build drama with searing crunch. Just before a clever circling back to the start, themes in unison lend some stability to what is, at times, a fairly gnarly ride; it's packed to the gunwales with inventiveness from this classically trained cohort.
The Odd Trio seems to draw from volumes of discipline, creativity, and overall gusto with Birth of the Minotaur. Expect future explorations to continue confounding and invigorating with their by now well-established taste for challenging, original material at the forefront of instrumental jazz.
The Birth of the Minotaur - the full release via BandCamp
or B o.t. M - via CDBaby
"Pasiphae's Wild Ride" - Enjoy a side of visuals, at no extra charge
The Odd Trio @ Facebook
or T.O.T. @ SoundCloud