FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DATE: March 4th 2011
contact: Brendan Cooney
Rhinoceri Trio Releases Debut Album: LIBERA ME
Libera Me: [latin, líberá mé] 1. deliver me, free me
Rhinóceri: the most ponderous and terrifying beast of the primeval forest.
Libera Me is the adventurous debut album of the Rhinoceri Trio, who take their name from a ponderous and terrifying beast. Firmly rooted in the jazz tradition, the group’s repertoire spans and blends a wide tapestry of influences including Ellington’s jungle jazz, Eastern European folk music, Bach, Wagner and minimalism.
In a world of musical formulas, honed to marketable perfection, why have the Rhinoceri Trio chosen the path of the ponderous/terrifying/beautiful? Perhaps Glenn Gould provides an answer when he writes, “The purpose of art is not the release of momentary ejection of adrenaline but is, rather, the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity.”
Certainly there is much about their debut album “Libera Me” which speaks to the patient unfolding of a serene concept. Sophisticated through-composed pieces unfold over long arcs. Jungly-latin grooves open seamlessly into minimalist vamps, inverted Serbian grooves morph into Turkish rhythms, free-form improvisation erupts in the midst of disciplined counter-point. In fact, few albums combine such a wide variety of compositional structures.
But Mr. Gould would be wrong if he were to imply that Libera Me was void of adrenaline rushes. After all, the Rhino is a wild beast living in the wilds of West Philly. After all “Libera Me”, latin for “deliver me” or “liberate me”, is the timeless spiritual/political cry of desperation/rage/resistance. This album percolates from start to finish with a constantly shifting terrain of emotional potency.
Take drummer Gregg Mervine for instance. A seasoned player, leader of Philly’s famous Balkan project the West Philadelphia Orchestra, Gregg came up in Philly admiring local jazz drumming legends such as Edgar Bateman and Mickey Roker. His playing is fiery, innovative and nurtures a deep sense of groove. At the same time there is a constant attention to compositional detail and a responsibility to the long arc of a composition. In his playing we hear endless experiments in Serbian 7/8 grooves, Macedonian 11/8, Turkish and Latin grooves as well as the bristling free-playing of his hero Ed Blackwell. His is not a typical approach to the modern jazz drumming.
Or consider the contributions of pianist and composer Brendan Cooney. Many may recognize him as a baritone player in the West Philadelphia Orchestra, but the piano has always been his great love. Crippled by tendonitis at the age of 23 Brendan took a long hiatus from playing jazz as he relearned to play the piano from scratch under the tutelage of Bob Durso, local guru of the Taubman Approach to Coordinate Technique. (The Taubman work boasts such luminous students at Tom Lawton and Danilo Perez.) After years of careful, brutally-slow, reconstruction he has emerged with a virtuosic command of the keyboard matched by few. We hear in his playing the sound of patience reminiscent of Mr. Gould’s “gradual, lifelong construction”. At the same time it vibrates constantly with restless energy. Perhaps this is why we hear Bach’s famous Fugue in Cminor erupt in to a moody afro-cuban groove, or why a Debussy children’s piece becomes a percolating 7/8 study in intensity. Maybe this is why a dark foreboding version of Ornette Coleman’s Lonely Woman erupts into a frightening explosion that pushes at the boundaries of piano texture or why the delicate unfolding of a Wagner melody concludes with catastrophic bomastic-ality! Certainly Brendan’s approach to the textural possibilities of the piano is a unique contribution to the ever-expanding frontiers of the instrument.
Bassist Chris Coyle is the youngster of the group, a recent Temple graduate with a giant musical appetite and driving bass sound. He has studied with the best of the Philly jazz and classical bass worlds under the tutelage of the likes of Philly jazz legend Mike Boone and Philadelphia Orchestra verteran John Hood. He handily doubles Brendan on virtousic bass runs, bows his way beautifully through lyrical Wagnerian passage, delivers up tasty, soulful grooves over Duke Ellington’s “I Like the Sunrise”, and generally “lays it down” throughout the album.
Together the three have created quite the musical adventure in this, their debut trio record. Where some trio albums can become monotonous under the limited timbre of the piano, this album remains vibrant, a constantly shifting array of textures, compositional devices and improvisatory schemes. All the while, the album remains thoroughly accessible to its audience, unhindered by abstractions. It is a forward-leaning exploration in the creative life.