Review

THE CHEAP ENSEMBLE Patrick Arthur , Dana Fitzsimons, Chris Otts : The Cheap 3nsemble

Album · 2017 · Nu Jazz
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3.5/5 ·
js
The Cheap 3nsemble is a leaderless trio operating out of Atlanta, and their CD of the same name is their debut recording. Despite the somewhat sarcastic name, there is nothing flippant about this trio’s music, instead, they provide compositions and improvisations that are very thoughtful, and even delicate at times, but also muscular as well, depending on how the collective muse moves them. The opening three tracks show an attachment to the early innovations of the ECM label, with saxophonist Chis Otts in particular echoing an influence from Jan Garbarek. But later tracks reveal a band that is far more diverse than mere copycats. Joining Otts in this trio is drummer Dana Fitzsimmons, whose freewheeling approach to the drums may remind some of Paul Motian, and guitarist Patrick Arthur, whose combination of floating space contrasted with gritty distorted muscle may recall the young John Abercrombie.

Along with the aforementioned opening tracks, some other interesting cuts on here include Chick Corea’s abstract post bop classic, “Matrix”, which the ensemble deconstructs into a noisy heavy avant-rock work out. Modern standard, “Pure Imagination” is barely recognizable as Chris stretches out the melody with long silences before the bands turns it into another broken beat rock affair. Arthur’s “Front” features the guitarist playing melancholy arpeggios that sound like a tuned hand drum behind Ott’s freely floating sax melody. Overall, there are no bad cuts on here, everything provided is well considered and treated with the challenge of making something original and new, or nu, if you will.

Going back to the earliest days of the fabled ‘cutting contests’, much of the jazz world has always been based around astonishing technique and virtuosity. It takes a certain amount of bold risk and conviction to check your extended chops at the door and play music that utilizes open space and slow unwinding melodies, but that is the risk that the Cheap 3nsemble has taken on in this debut CD. The end result, combined with the fractured rocking moments, is a new (nu) kind of jazz, something that the millennial generation can call their own. This music constitutes a remarkable debut, lets hope we here more from the cheap 3some, much of their potential is probably still untapped.
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