Thursday, March 8, 2018

New Releases: Inspiration, by the Marc Devine Trio

After a brief hiatus, Jazz Flashes returns with a review of an excellent trio album released just a few months ago.

His first CD as a leader finds pianist Marc Devine in a trio setting and in a company in which he feels extremely comfortable and relaxed: bassist Hide Tanaka and drummer Fukushi Tainaka, whose pedigree is impeccable if we bear in mind that they've worked with illustrious names such as Junior Mance and Lou Donaldson respectively. The album, recorded in April 2017 and simply entitled Inspiration (ITI Records), amounts to an outstanding calling card that underscores Devine's straight-ahead approach, with more than a hint of bebop and hard bop but always full of swing and extremely listenable. Devine moved to NYC in 2009 after establishing a solid reputation as a top-notch jazz pianist in Austin, TX, and since settling in the Big Apple, he has been contributing to several recordings and making personal appearances at renowned clubs such as Smalls, forming productive associations with different musicians on the New York scene and now getting to cut some sides fronting his own trio.

And the music on Devine's first album as a leader is, indeed, inspired and shows the breadth of his influences. The collection opens with the trio's swinging take on Hank Mobley's perennial "Soul Station," whose bluesy riffs become the perfect vehicle for some soulful playing from the pianist. No less soulful, though with perhaps more of an accent on swing and bop, is Devine's only original composition here, "Inspiration," which does seem inspired by the hard bop sounds of Barry Harris and includes brief solos by Tanaka and Tainaka. The Great American Songbook also has its place on the album via a lightly swinging rendition of the Johnny Mercer standard, "Dream," followed by "Vignette," a lesser-known gem by Hank Jones that Devine unearths for the occasion—and rightly so. Bud Powell is yet another of Devine's inspirations, as we can hear on his lively version of Powell's "Hallucinations," which also features a marvelous bowed solo by Tanaka.

The Marc Devine Trio (Photo: Peter Shepherd)
Devine has a knack for finding the swing that lies under the melody in the unlikeliest places, as on Gerry Goffin and Carole King's "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow," which, in Devine's hands doesn't sound anything like a Shirelles tune but swings nonchalantly in a manner that is reminiscent of Oscar Peterson or Erroll Garner. Similarly, Elvis Presley's ballad, "Love Me Tender," is another seemingly odd choice that somehow works perfectly when taken at an ultra-slow pace that renders it almost minimalist. Osie Johnson's "Osmosis" is the exact opposite: as vertiginous as it gets on the album, this is an extremely appropriate closer that leaves the listener hungry for more. In short, Marc Devine's debut album at the helm of his trio lives up to its title, and with its right doses of swing and bop, the excellent rapport between the musicians, and the variety of the tune selections, it's one of the best and most engaging trio albums I've heard in a very long time.

Further Information

For more information about the Marc Devine Trio, including upcoming live gigs, please visit Devine's website here.

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