by Ian Mann
August 09, 2017
Individually the musicians all play well but the most impressive aspect of the recording is the interaction between the three instrumentalists.
Meg Morley Trio
“Can’t Get Started”
In April 2017 I enjoyed hearing and reviewing the EP “Through the Hours”, a collection of five solo piano pieces composed and played by Meg Morley.
The following biography of Morley is shamelessly lifted from my earlier review;
Meg Morley is an Australian born pianist and composer now living and working in London. She is a versatile musician who studied classical music at the University of Southern Queensland where her tutors included the classical pianists Wendy Lorenz and Roy Howat and the composer Gerard Brophy.
Morley subsequently moved to Melbourne where she completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Jazz Improvisation under the guidance of Andrea Keller and Dr. Timothy Stevens. Following this she taught piano and improvisation at two prestigious Melbourne grammar schools as well as performing and playing for the Australian Ballet and its associated Ballet School.
In 2010 Morley re-located to London and secured a full time post as pianist with the English National Ballet School. She also found time to perform with leading musicians from other genres including jazz vocalist Tina May and was at one time a member of the leading UK samba band Rhythms of The City.
Morley has continued to work with various dance companies including a stint as Resident Musician at the London Contemporary Ballet Theatre. More recently she became the resident pianist at the Kennington Bioscope, a silent film organisation based at the London Cinema Museum. This has led to numerous other engagements playing at film festivals in the UK and mainland Europe. Indeed a glance at Morley’s date sheet on her website http://www.megmorleymusic.com suggests that this is one of her main areas of focus at the present time.
n 2014 Morley released her début jazz album “Searching Not Finding” with the trio MIA Panboola, a London based ensemble founded in 2011 which teamed her with the vocalists Ileana Di Camillo and Antonio De Lillis. The album, comprised entirely of original material, also included contributions from trumpeter John Cervantes, bassist Richard Sadler and drummer Emiliano Caroselli.
The rhythm section of Sadler and Caroselli continued to appear with the core trio at live performances at such prestigious London venues as The Vortex and Ronnie Scott’s and Morley established a strong rapport with the pair. Subsequently she invited the British born Sadler and the Italian Caroselli to join her in a conventional piano trio setting with “Can’t Get Started” representing the new group’s keenly anticipated début recording.
Richard Sadler first came to my attention as the bassist with the Neil Cowley Trio and he appeared on that group’s first three albums, recordings that made a considerable impression on the UK jazz scene and beyond. More recently he has been the co-leader of the group -isq, alongside vocalist Irene Serra. Sadler has also recorded with pianist John Crawford and saxophonist Aldevis Tibaldi and as a session musician has worked with drummer Sam Kelly of the band Cymande and with the great Ray Davies (of Kinks fame).
I must admit to knowing rather less about the Rome born Caroselli who honed his percussive talents in Cuba, studying and living in Havana for three years. After establishing himself on the Italian jazz scene Caroselli moved to London in 2012 and has played with a variety of bands across a range of jazz styles including Latin and Brazilian. Among the musicians he has worked with in UK are trumpeter Quentin Collins, saxophonist Renato D’Aiello, vocalist Anjale Perin and singer/songwriter/guitarist Sarah Gillespie.
“Can’t Get Started” features eleven original compositions by Morley that embrace a variety of jazz styles and cover a wide emotional and dynamic range. The album commences with the title track, a highly rhythmic affair encompassing darting melodic motifs and shifting dynamics that immediately reveals how finely attuned this trio is as they navigate the complex contours of Morley’s writing with ease. Morley’s expansive solo embraces a balancing lyricism as does Sadler’s subsequent feature on double bass. Caroselli’s drums feature prominently in the closing stages as the energy levels begin to build once more. It all makes for an invigorating and very contemporary introduction. If, as I suspect, it’s based on the jazz standard then it’s only very loosely.
Caroseli, now in the role of colourist, introduces the more reflective “D.C.M.” with a series of unaccompanied mallet rumbles and cymbal shimmers. He later switches to brushes to accompany Morley’s gentle, unhurried piano lyricism and Sadler’s languorous bass solo. The leader’s playing exhibits the same classically honed delicacy that distinguished the EP “Through the Hours”.
Morley’s classical leanings are also apparent in “Caged” which also features a melodic bass solo from the impressive Sadler and some delightfully detailed drum and cymbal work from the similarly excellent Caroselli. For all its elegance the piece builds up an impressive momentum at times and again demonstrates what a well balanced and calibrated a trio this is.
Unaccompanied piano introduces “Meandering” which continues to showcase the finely nuanced interplay between the members of the group. In this highly democratic unit Sadler and Caroselli are given ample room for self expression, the bassist with a feature in the tune’s opening stages, the drummer with his subtly inventive playing throughout the piece. Morley’s writing and her effortlessly fluent playing may point the way but there’s the sense that this is very much a group exploration.
“Rush Hour” appeared in a different guise on the “Through the Hours” EP and a passage of solo piano introduces the piece here. As on the previous version the serenity of the opening sequence is eventually superseded by a more frenetic passage that expresses something of the energy and urgency suggested by the title. In this trio arrangement this section is given an additional boost by Sadler’s muscular bass work and Caroselli’s crisp, neatly energetic drumming.
The brief “Polly (Part 1)” is an energetic burst of quirkiness that emphasises the trio’s shared musical humour sense of fun.
Likewise the following “Life Coaching” which mixes exaggerated New Orleans style flourishes with free jazz episodes and bluesy syncopated grooves. Sadler solos on double bass above something approaching a reggae groove and Caroselli relishes the opportunity to take a tour of the drum kit. Finally Morley gets to explore a variety of piano styles. Great fun all round.
“Invention in D” maintains the playful mood with its charming, faux naive melodies and relaxed group interplay.
“Folk Hymn” exhibits similar qualities and features the exotically atmospheric sound of Caroselli on shakers in the tune’s early stages. Morley later stretches out joyously on piano, colourfully supported by Sadler’s agile and flexible bass playing and Caroselli’s playful, neatly detailed drumming.
The closing “Song Without Words” is aptly titled, the flowing melody and intentionally simple, lyrical arrangement imbues the piece with a genuinely song like quality. Morley’s flowing lyricism at the piano is complemented by Sadler’s nimble but resonant bass and Caroselli’s tasteful and sympathetic brush work.
Recorded over the course of two days at London’s Smokehouse Studios and mixed by Sadler in conjunction with engineer Denis Blackman “Can’t Get Started” represents an impressive début from the Meg Morley Trio. Individually the musicians all play well but the most impressive aspect of the recording is the interaction between the three instrumentalists, a quality that the engineering positively enhances.
The musicians are also well served by the intelligence, quality and variety of Morley’s writing which incorporates a broad variety of jazz styles ranging from the simple to the complex, while also allowing plenty of scope for individual and collective self expression. Some of the pieces also display a welcome sense of humour but without descending into novelty.
Morley continues to fulfil the promise suggested by the “Through the Hours” EP, Sadler enjoys a greater sense of freedom than he did with the Cowley trio and Caroselli impresses with both his sensitivity and technical ability.
Morley has recently been involving the trio with her silent film work with the group recently performing a semi-improvised score for a presentation by the Film London organisation. There are also plans in the offing for the trio to perform an original score during a tour of UK film festival s in 2018.
Meanwhile one suspects that a regular jazz club performance by this trio would also be a highly entertaining and enjoyable prospect.
“Can’t Get Started” is available via CD Baby, Bandcamp, iTunes and Amazon via http://www.megmorleymusic.com
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