M.A.P. Trio - Richmond (Slang Sanctuary, 2008)

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by Dean Christesen

Brightly dodging around the melody of “Jelly Roll," the M.A.P. Trio abandons the original harmony of the first few lines, instead stating the melody in unison. And so goes the challenge of performing Charles Mingus' music with a trio: sacrifices of the original composition must be made, but the ways that those sacrifices are made give the group its identity. Drummer Brian Jones, tenor saxophonist J.C. Kuhl, and bassist Cameron Ralston maintain the soul of Mingus' music alive while modifying it and keeping the excitement in tact.

A product of the Mingus Awareness Project, created in Chicago in 2007 to benefit research for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (which Mingus died of) and expanded to Richmond later that year, the M.A.P. Trio's Richmond features four Mingus compositions. Each is followed by a short collective improvisation.

“Canon" merges a rubato theme into a classic Mingus 3/8 feel. In between the two, drums and bass swirl around each other. Once in African-based waltz territory, Kuhl lays syncopated lines over the aggressive rhythm section, often venturing outside of the chordal tones before resolving. His statements are effectively crafted with repetition and slight alterations. Each of the three voices in the band carries an unbelievable amount of weight. The trio's impromptu orchestrations in the free sections often sound at times as full as one of Mingus' larger groups. At other times, spaces between the noise is treasured.

Like “Canon," “Opus Four" contains two feels, but this piece skits constantly between its two styles. Mingus' interesting forms are followed with coolness and leapt from with curiosity. Both Kuhl and Ralston succeed in mending the swing with its latinish counterpart with ease. Ralston flies over the chromatically ascending harmony of the bridge in a string of 8th notes before beautifully anticipating the triplet theme four measures early.

“Ecclusiastics" maintains its wonderful harmonic content despite the group having fewer instruments than most of Mingus' bands. Between Kuhl's melodic soloing and Ralston's proclivity for feverishly strumming full chords, the trio does justice to Mingus' composition from his 1961 release Oh Yeah! while making it their own.

Each sub-minute interjection--"Orange," “L.A.," “Dance," and “Ganges"--is its own statement. The snippets of improvisation lead from one composition to the next: after “Canon's" tranquil ending, “L.A." gets blood flowing again before “Opus Four" kicks off.

Track listing: Jelly Roll; Orange; Canon; L.A.; Opus Four; Dance; Ecclusiastics; Ganges.

Personnel: Brian Jones: drums; J.C. Kuhl: tenor saxophone; Cameron Ralston: bass.

Visit Mingus Awareness Project on the web.
Visit Brian Jones on the web.

All proceeds from sales of this album benefit the ALS Association, DC/MD/VA Chapter.

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This story appears courtesy of RVAjazz.
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