CD Review: The Jacob Szekely Trio

By Brian Arsenault

I think that the Jacob Szekely Trio, if based in Europe, would be recording for ECM.  I say that as a giant compliment because of ECM’s attention to purity of sound. No where is that more evident than in the spaces between pianist Josh Nelson’s notes on the self titled album’s closing song, “Postlude: Houston.”

ECM respects silences like no other label.  Their motto after all is the “Most Beautiful Sound Next to Silence.” But this review is about Szekely and his trio and the sounds here, as well as the silences, are superb.

Jacob Szekely
Jacob Szekely

The cello in Szekely’s special hands is transformative, literally.  At times a guitar, a bass guitar, a violin, a harp. But always, always a cello.  Is there anyone else in the world who plays the instrument like this. A musician who could clearly play classical — and at times nearly does here — but is broadly considered a jazz musician.

Better to forget labels. To paraphrase Duke Ellington, there really is only good music and bad music.  This is the good stuff.

What I think about Szekely and his cohorts — the aforementioned Nelson and drummer Christopher Allis — is that they are reaching, reaching for something better.  They are magic together but magic in the sense of something that lifts the spirit, that touches all the emotions from melancholy to buoyancy. There are no sidemen here, there are three excellent musicians playing together.

Cerebral and soulful in combination.  If you think I’m going to write at some point that this is music that’s not for everybody, I’m not.  It is for everybody but you have to let it flow over you without expectations.

Perhaps play it on a Sunday morning when there’s less noise in your life and in your head, maybe while cooking breakfast or just savoring a soft morning. It is not to be hurried.

During part of my listening, the damn street cleaner went by with its loud jarring sound.  I hit the pause button and if I’d had a rocket launcher I swear my town’s streets would be dirtier for a long time.

There is delicacy herein but delicacy is strength not weakness. There are also robust moments, poetic ones, enchanting ones. Music to entice deeper thoughts and feelings.

And as I said above, reaching, reaching.  I’m not sure I know for what but Szekely himself says in a note in the CD jacket that he hopes “you will hear three musicians stretching themselves in new directions and hopefully finding something beautiful in the end.”

Exactly.

A footnote: I have no right to suggest this but I’d love to hear this trio work with a singer and I have a suggestion.  Play with Little Lonely (Julie Cain).  These are the two most beautiful albums I’ve heard so far this year however different they may be.  The combination might be marvelous but such things almost never happen because great talents must almost always go their own way.

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To read more posts, reviews and columns by Brian Arsenault click HERE.

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