Auragami Records AGMR 004
Dave Redmond (double bass); Kevin Brady (drums); Meilana Gillard (tenor & alto saxophones)
Recorded 7 & 8 April 2023
It was once considered a risky business to have a trio or quartet without a harmony instrument, and then came along Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson and Joe Lovano, to name drop just three saxophonists that have stepped up to the challenge and shown how it should be done. Since then, it has been considered a risky business to try and follow in the footsteps of giants.
There have of course many that have subsequently taken up this challenge with various degrees of success, and the ones that have succeeded are those that have managed not to allow the weight of tradition to bear down on them, but to draw inspiration from it. Not to emulate, but to take as a point of reference for their own explorations into the format.
This is exactly what the RBG Trio have done. A cursory listen denotes that the Trio have worked hard at their music, and that this carefully thought out and prepared album has not been hurried through as a mere blowing session.
Based in Ireland the three musicians formed RBG Trio some four years ago, and over this time have forged a strong connection. Dave Redmond is a superb bassist in this context and his strong melodic figures provide not just a rhythmic axis the saxophonist but also feed ideas into the improvisations.
Saxophonist Meilana Gilard is quickly emerging as a formidable and fearless improviser. She is steeped in the tradition with a big warm and searching sound on the tenor, and light and fleet on alto with a lovely pliable tone on the smaller horn.
The material on the album all come from within the band, and there is one fully improvised piece in ‘Deep Blue’ which was nailed in one take. In fact, so completely realised is the improvisation that is could have been precomposed and stands alongside the written material in terms of quality and originality.
From Redmond’s opening bass figure, Gillard picks up a melodic thread and runs with it and from this fragment develops delightful and thoughtful solo. As Gillard builds the piece over Redmond’s steady bass line, drummer Kevin Brady plays with considerable restraint, yet with his imaginative playing helps gently lift the music.
This intuitive interplay is to be found throughout the album. Recorded over two days there was no overdubbing and everything was played live in the studio. To keep the music fresh, the Trio brought mostly new material that they had not played previously, and thus depriving themselves of the safety net that familiarity might bring with it.
Compositions from the trio all sound fresh and exciting, and are well paced and varied from Gilliard’s jaunty ‘Chysalis’ and Redmond’s delicate ballad ‘Centro’ in which the saxophonist’s full toned tenor is heard to fine effect.
Meilana gets to stretch out on alto on another fine Redmond composition ‘Faultlines’, which recalls Jimmy Heath’s ‘Gingerbread Boy, and is a straight-ahead no-nonsense piece ideal for soloing over.
Brady’s inventive drumming is again heard on ‘Take Your Time’ by Gillard that does just that, and again it is this feeling of restraint and relaxation that makes the music so compelling.
At seventy minutes this is a relatively long album, yet none of the fourteen tracks overstay their welcome. The trio ensure that there is never a dull moment, and leave you with an overriding feeling of time well spent, and contemplating what more then is to discover on subsequent listening to this strong debut album.