by Ian Mann
May 26, 2017
Chandler has provided an engaging set of original tunes for the trio to work with and the musicians respond with some fluent and inventive individual soloing allied to a tight, cohesive group dynamic.
Matt Chandler Trio
(33 Jazz Records -33JAZZ261)
Originally from the English Midlands guitarist Matt Chandler is now based in London and is a versatile musician who has worked in a variety of musical genres. Among those he has appeared with are Ozark Henry, Youth, Arno Carstens, Poly Styrene and Fake?.
He has performed with singer songwriter Helen Bolden, jazz vocalist Monika Lidke and the electro-funk band Pest. A frequent award winner he won the 2010 Blue Noize blues guitar competition and was crowned “Future Guitar Legend” at an international competition sponsored by Eastman in 2013.
But for all his versatility Chandler is primarily a jazz musician with a particular fondness for the ‘organ trio’ format. In 2010 I enjoyed two festival performances in Birmingham by his trio MC3 featuring the Birmingham based musicians Matt Ratcliffe (organ) and Tymek Jozwiak (drums). This trio had previously won the “Best Newcomer” award at the 2009 Cheltenham Jazz Festival.
Unfortunately MC3 never got the opportunity to record but in 2009 Chandler released “After Midnight”, his début as a leader made with Nottingham based musicians Ian Beestin (drums) and Pinski Zoo bassist Karl Bingham. Unpretentious, swinging, grooving and highly enjoyable the album is reviewed here;
In 2011 Chandler followed with this with “It Goes Like This” which retained the services of Bingham and Beestin while adding keyboard player Neil Hunter to the line up. Three of the eleven tracks also included guest performances by Nottingham born saxophonist Tony Kofi.
2017 sees Chandler returning to the organ trio format with a stellar line up featuring Ross Stanley on Hammond and Eric Ford at the drums. Stanley is one of the most in demand keyboard players in the country while Ford is probably best known for his work with the group Partikel, led by saxophonist Duncan Eagles.
The title of “Astrometrics” is a particularly clever piece of word-play, being an anagram of the first names of the three musicians. The material is comprised of nine original pieces by Chandler, a couple of which date back to the MC3 days.
Chandler describes Stanley and Ford as “exceptional musicians” and “really good listeners who react well to what I play”.
Of the music itself Chandler states;
“I wanted to do an album that was in keeping with the organ trio tradition but with a newer take on it and with material that was not composition heavy, where the music and the players ‘just get down to it’. The material, by design, is simplistic. It’s really a celebration of our skills and how our skills work together”.
With regard to updating the organ trio sound Chandler and his colleagues succeed admirably in their task of giving the music a contemporary edge while simultaneously remaining true to the organ trio tradition. Opener “Funk Work” opens with the kind of seductively funky groove that one might expect but it’s not long before the trio are stretching out into more adventurous areas with Chandler’s guitar leading the way with a highly inventive solo. It’s a piece that embodies the co-operative spirit of the group with Chandler commenting;
“The groove on ‘Funk Work’ is very different to what I had in mind originally. Eric thought a half time feel throughout would suit it best”.
Chandler has mentioned the organ trios of guitarists Wes Montgomery and Pat Martino as sources of inspiration in addition to groups actually led by organists such as that of Joey de Francesco. The fiery “The Sting” also hints at the power Tony Williams’ Lifetime or Larry Young’s Unity band. There’s some fleet fingered interaction and fine individual soloing from Chandler and Stanley plus an energetic and virtuosic display from the excellent Ford who also features strongly.
“El Diablo” is less intense but still tricky, lively and restlessly inventive with its slippery, intertwining guitar and keyboard lines and imaginative individual soloing from both Chandler and Stanley.
The Latin inflected “Doctor’s In the House” seems to tip its hat in the direction of Herbie Hancock’s “Canteloupe Island” while Chandler deploys a guitar sound similar to the guitar-synth timbres of Pat Metheny. He’s followed by the ever inventive Stanley, whose Hammond playing is always a source of delight.
A version of “Intricate Facade” appeared way back on the “After Midnight” album. Here Stanley has altered the harmonies to give the music even more of a contemporary feel - “enriching things sonically” as Chandler perceptively describes it. Again the group interplay is impressive and the individual contributions excellent although there’s more of a sense of this piece being through composed than there is on some of the other items on the album.
“Scene of No Scene” combines a jazzy elegance with an almost psychedelic feel with Ford’s drum and cymbals playing a prominent part in the arrangement as Chandler and Stanley stretch out and indeed “get down to it” as they exchange lengthy, but consistently engaging, solos.
The tunes “5 Bar Short” and “Dirty Rat” both date back to the MC3 days. The first of these has a bluesy, Scofield-esque feel and features a fluent solo from Chandler alongside the surge of Stanley’s gospel tinged Hammond and Ford’s crisp, propulsive drumming. There’s also something of a feature for the excellent Ford as the piece draws to a close.
“Dirty Rat” scuttles along at a rapid pace with Ford’s busy drumming fuelling Chandler’s nimble, slippery guitar runs and Stanley’s fiery organ soloing. Ford himself gets to enjoy a series of scintillating drum breaks in the latter stages of the piece.
“A Change of Scene (of no scene)” offers a slower, bluesier, gospel infused variation on the similarly named earlier piece and ultimately ends up sounding very different. It’s tempting to think of this as a very welcome bonus track.
At this late date it’s just about impossible to find something completely brand new to say in the context of the well established format of the organ trio. Nevertheless Chandler and his colleagues succeed in achieving their objective of updating the sound and giving it a more contemporary edge while still honouring the venerable lineage.
Chandler has provided an engaging set of original tunes for the trio to work with and the musicians respond with some fluent and inventive individual soloing allied to a tight, cohesive group dynamic. The standard of musicianship is excellent throughout and one would suspect that this will prove to be a highly exciting live band. London listeners will get the chance to judge for themselves when “Astrometrics” is officially launched at Jazz Café POSK in Hammersmith on the evening of Saturday June 3rd 2017.
Full details and tickets from http://www.jazzcafeposk.org
Let’s hope Chandler is able to bring this exciting new trio out to the provinces too.
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