Carole Nelson Trio Reviews
Irish Times. Gig of the Week
Saturday, Jan 13
Carole Nelson Trio
Visual, Carlow, 8pm, €15/12, visualcarlow.ie
Carole Nelson has spent the best part of three decades as one half of popular jazz-pop duo Zrazy, but an invitation to perform with her own trio last year has opened a new door for the Carlow-based pianist. What began with a one-off performance has blossomed into a fine working trio featuring bassist Cormac O Brien and drummer Dominic Mullen, with whom Nelson is touring this spring to promote her debut solo album, One Day in Winter. The London-born pianist and composer may not have all the flashy chops of some of her male colleagues, but the directness and honesty of her playing – spacious, meditative and open-hearted – more than makes up for it.
CAROLE NELSON TRIO RAISE THE SPIRITS AT WEXFORD ARTS CENTRE
Review by Jackie Hayden
There was a point during the Carole Nelson Trio’s stimulating concert at the Wexford Arts Centre when keyboardist Nelson introduced ‘The Sky Darkens’ from her new album One Day in Winter. The poem/tune was inspired by Leonard Cohen’s death and his love of Zen Buddhism. She’d written the lyrics while meditating on ageing and death, and her rendition of them in spoken form with the trio brought the spirit of Cohen to the venue, with Dominick Mullen’s martial drumming adding an appropriately sombre touch.
But there was a Zen feel to much of the fine music the trio offered throughout the night, with a tendency for the Carlow-based Nelson and her sidekicks (Mullen plus Cormac O’Brien on bass) to make every note and every space count to the maximum.
It was one of two spoken vocals, the other being ‘Snow Is Falling’ to which they brought a suitably wistfulness. ‘Cold Rushing River’ enabled all three to stretch out and ‘Sun Rising Over The Blackstair’ began in languid style before shifting up the gears. They’d opened proceedings with ‘Beata Viscera’, Nelson’s re-invention of a hymn from the 13th century by Pérotin, setting the scene for an evening dominated by Nelson’s fluid playing, and her tendency to ease notes effortlessly from her instrument. Much of One Day In Winter is inspired by the natural environs of her home, and it was exhilarating to hear its compositions come alive before our very ears in such an intimate setting.
One Day in Winter/Carole Nelson Trio
One Day In Winter is the sort of recording that keeps one on the edge of their seat throughout. The trio brings a deep empathy with European Jazz-making on one hand; the sparseness and melodicism, while keeping the tradition of Jazz music at the fore and even making space for Irish traditional elements in the inaugural piece Beata Viscera. But this is no fusion record. The trio have a singular vision, and the many influences are naturally expressed in the whole. This is a piano trio that finds a way to swing gently but stridently through a plethora of feels. No contrivances here, this is real.
Nelson’s piano has melodicism that brings to mind players such as Keith Jarrett and Paul Bley, without mimicry or direct reference. She has managed to incorporate the approach of these elders while making the content her own. Something that gives the whole recording a sense that we are hearing her own voice, and that is pleasurable indeed.
Cormac O’Brien’s bass is wonderful here. He is the epitome of the supportive accompanist while still leaving an indelible print upon the music. The sound is genuine (and also well-recorded), a sort of woody sound that makes me think of Scott LaFaro a little on this particular album. O’Brien is the sort of bass player that every Jazz musician wants to play with; the perfect juggler of risk-taking and foundation.
Drummer Dominic Mullan is likewise found in full service of the music here. For instance, as the track Snow is Falling begins one is barely even aware of the most subtle textures he is gently adding. This builds through what is a quite profound arc during the four minute piece, and that is all being driven by how Mullan manipulates the energy. Conversely, when it is time to swing his placement can really drive the trio into that realm of “quiet fire” which is so gratifying to hear in these types of melodic piano trios.
This is a record that doesn’t shy away from its art, and yet the high level musicianship should be no barrier to the casual listener. Never does it feel anyone has anything to prove. This is simply solid and uncompromising playing from three highly enjoyable players. The compositions are always interesting, yet avoid overt complexity – no small feat indeed for Nelson as composer. This is a recording that doesn’t get predictable at any point, with each track providing a window into different, and continually surprising, aspects of the group. Highly recommended.