by Ian Mann
May 17, 2023
Circeo” builds upon the success of the trio’s previous two albums and reveals their rapport to be more instinctive than ever.
Dave Storey Trio
(Clonmell Jazz Social CJS002CD)
Dave Storey – drums, James Allsopp – tenor saxophone, Conor Chaplin – double bass
“Circeo” is the third album release from this trio led by drummer Dave Storey. It follows “Bosco” (2019) and “Jouska” (2020), both of which have been reviewed elsewhere on The Jazzmann.
There is also an account of a livestream performance by a different version of the group, with organist Ross Stanley replacing Chaplin, from Peggy’s Skylight in Nottingham, which was originally transmitted in February 2021.
Storey studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London where his drum tutors included such influential musicians as Martin France, Tim Giles, Mark Sanders, Gene Calderazzo and Jim Hart. Since completing his Masters he has become a busy presence on the London jazz scene, performing regularly at clubs such as Ronnie Scott’s, Kansas Smitty’s, The Vortex and the 606.
As an in demand sideman Storey has appeared on the Jazzmann web pages on numerous occasions performing with band leaders such as saxophonists Tom Barford and Tom Smith and pianists Tom Millar and Sam Leak. He is also a member of trombonist Olli Martin’s quintet and of Moostak Trio, led by guitarist Harry Christelis.
Storey recently appeared on Christelis’ solo album “Nurture The Child / Challenge The Adult”, the first album release on the Clonmell Jazz Social record label. Review here;
Christelis returns the compliment for providing the artwork for “Circeo”, the label’s second release. CJS has promoted jazz and improvised music events around London on a regular basis since 2015 and has recently established its own record label.
“Circeo” continues the Storey Trio’s explorations in the classic ‘saxophone trio’ format, drawing inspiration from the works of Sonny Rollins and Joe Henderson. Other touchstones included the bebop of Charlie Parker and the later experiments of John Coltrane, with all these influences filtered through a contemporary jazz prism.
“Circeo” was recorded over the course of a single day at New River Studios in London on 14th December 2021. It features five original compositions by the group’s saxophonist, James Allsopp and an interpretation of the much loved jazz standard “Body and Soul”, written by Johnny Green. The album was recorded, mixed and mastered by Alex Bonney, a close friend of the group, and the feeling is very much that of a “live in the studio” release. The close rapport between the members of this regular working trio is immediately apparent, as is that between the band and Bonney.
The album commences with “Gemelli” , the title the Italian word for “Twins”. Storey and Chaplin establish a supple, undulating groove that serves as the foundation for Allsopp’s imaginative and increasingly impassioned saxophone explorations. There’s a Coltrane-esque feel about Allsopp’s playing, an almost spiritual intensity that combines strong melody with more guttural, vocalised forays, these almost threatening to stray into the realms of extended technique.
The Jobim inspired “Rain Song” is more gentle, with delicate, pure toned tenor sax subtly underscored by Storey’s sensitive drum colorations. Chaplin emerges as a soloist, his playing fluent, melodic and highly dexterous. Allsopp then stretches out a little further, but the air of delicacy remains, the rapport between the musicians almost telepathic. Storey’s drum commentary is full of delightful small details and nuances that add to the fragile beauty of the music.
“Joe” is named for one of the trio’s primary inspirations, the late, great Joe Henderson (1937-2001). This is a more upbeat, swinging offering with Allsopp stretching out with a Henderson like fluency above a flexible, rolling, rhythmic backdrop. Storey’s drums come to the fore in a series of animated exchanges with the composer’s tenor.
The title track is named after the coastal national park in the Lazio region of Italy. An atmospheric opening passage features the sound of tenor sax, double bass and the leader’s cymbal shimmers and mallet rumbles. A more solid, but still highly adaptable, rhythmic pattern then emerges, this forming the basis for Allsopp’s tenor ruminations as he evokes the grandeur of the Italian coastal landscape.
As its title might suggest the free-wheeling “Magnum” is a more forceful piece, fast moving and loosely swinging, driven along by Chaplin’s propulsive bass lines and with the dialogue between sax and drums consistently animated, colourful and engaging. Storey also enjoys his only extended solo of the set, circumnavigating his kit in highly musical fashion and with an obvious relish.
The album concludes with the trio’s delightful interpretation of “Body and Soul”, which is performed in a manner that is gently exploratory, but which never loses the essential spirit and beauty of the piece. Allsopp’s softly snaking sax lines are subtly shadowed by Storey’s drums, played with a mixture of brushes and sticks.
“Circeo” builds upon the success of the trio’s previous two albums and reveals their rapport to be more instinctive than ever. This is now a supremely well balanced group and the superb playing of the musicians is enhanced by Bonney’s engineering skills in a crystalline sound mix that captures all the nuance and fine detail of the trio’s playing. Credit is also due to Storey himself, who also fulfils the role of producer.
The trio are equally as convincing on ballads (“Rain Song”, “Body and Soul”) as they are on the more up-tempo numbers, maintaining an appropriate sense of equilibrium at all times. Drawing on the legacy of the past they have created an increasingly distinctive identity of their own.
The band’s own take on their music, written at the time of the “Bosco” release perhaps summarises their approach best;
“The music reflects reverence and respect of the jazz tradition without ever being beholden to its dogma, which results in music that feels unpretentious but never throwaway or without considerable weight”.
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