Danny Fox Trio
The One ConstantSGL 1588-2
Once in a while a CDR arrives in the mail from an artist I’ve never heard of that really perks up my ears. Danny’s music did that, and the longer I listened the more convinced I was that Songlines should put it out. Why? – when there are already so many good modern jazz pianists playing in a more or less straight-ahead style, and Songlines isn’t noted for being a traditional jazz label. A couple of reasons:
1) Danny’s writing: these pieces don’t sound like typical jazz compositions, they have fresh melodies, interesting harmonic twists, and well thought-out development – and the craft all goes towards communicating.
2) The band: Danny didn’t rush into recording – the band (which was formed in 2008) honed its interpretations collaboratively, and the clarity and detail as well as the meshing of the three voices are impressive. The improvisations flow out of the composed material organically, and the roles of each musician are varied creatively from song to song.
3) Most importantly, the music has depth and staying power. Personally I think this has something to do with the contrast between the energy and cohesiveness of its group dynamic and its darker emotional undercurrents. Danny concurs: “I think that’s a logical extension of my personality, which is both reflective/self-analytical and socially outgoing….Most of the pieces have a searching quality to them that springs out of my own process of self-discovery. This takes on a new dimension when the three of us begin working on the piece, as we are searching for something together.”
In fact there are a lot of influences going into Danny’s music that might not be obvious because they’re assimilated into an original style. A Harvard graduate with a major in neuroscience, Danny is largely self-taught as a musician. He grew up in Manhattan: “When I started listening to jazz in high school I went out and heard as much live music as I could. The great bassist Bob Cranshaw lived down the block from me, and when I would bump into him on the street I could ask him about a Hank Mobley record I had just heard him on….I was surrounded by so much great music and tradition and I soaked it all up….Monk was certainly a big early influence….I’ve always been drawn to music with an exploratory quality to it and am especially inspired by groups like Miles’s 60s quintet, the Coltrane Quartet, etc., where you can really hear everyone searching for a personal sound, both individually and collectively….At Harvard I was surrounded by a staggering diversity of people, cultures, and ideas, which fostered an open-mindedness and willingness to draw from many influences.”
“When I moved back to NYC I began studying with (classical pianist) John Kamitsuka….Having worked on some of the more fiery Scriabin etudes, I found myself searching for darker sounding chords. Listening to Messiaen (one of my favorite composers) opened my ears up to ways of making dissonance sound beautiful. Also, in terms of composition and structure, I began to notice how great composers are able to extract so much music from a few strong, even simple ideas. They take a motif and create an entire world out of it….This commitment to an idea is something I try to apply to my own compositions as well as to my improvisation….In terms of structure and development, I usually build the pieces around a couple of themes such that any given section will relate to the ones around it. In the long-form ‘Drama King’, all four sections are based on either the triplet figure of the first melody or the shape of the C half-diminished chord that prevails throughout the first section, or a combination of the two.”
“We follow the model of the hungry young rock band in that we rehearse for hours in a basement coming up with parts and internalizing our material, and then we will play as many gigs as we can to get the music to the desired level. Ideally we’d like to combine the tightness of a rock band with the improvisatory freedom of a jazz group….We’ve also set some musical goals for ourselves, the most recent one being memorizing our repertoire (which with around 30 songs often with multiple sections is quite the challenge)….In the three years we’ve played together so far, we have established a special rapport that will only get stronger as we go forward.”
“Vivid, intense and often unselfconsciously dark, many of the compositions on the Danny Fox Trio’s latest album follow a cinematic trajectory, frequently into very creepy territory. If pianist Fox ever gets tired of jazz, he has a career in film scores waiting to happen. He’s a hard hitter, yet very precise and also very rhythmic. Fond of nonstandard tempos (and jazz waltzes), he’ll frequently loop a riff and run melody over it, or variations on that riff…But it’s the more serious tracks here that really pack a wallop. The opening cut, Next Chapter juxtaposes blithe loopiness with Satie-esque menace, while Easily Distracted, a syncopated, modal tango of sorts, very cleverly works in major-on-minor effects: it reminds of Michael Reis’ recent work…As tuneful as it is cerebral, the album makes a great introduction to a resolutely individualistic, powerful voice in third-stream jazz.”
– Delarue, Lucid Culture
“…his striking debut shows how forward-thinking this young composer can be…concise and fresh…”