This review appears in the September 2013 issue of The New York City Jazz Record.
By David R. Adler
Flutist Michel Gentile, pianist Daniel Kelly and drummer Rob Garcia aren’t just trio mates: they’re business partners, overseeing the nonprofit Connection Works as it programs concerts, workshops and educational events in Brooklyn. WORKS, their co-led trio, is a house band of sorts, collaborating regularly with high-profile guest artists (e.g., Joe Lovano, Dave Liebman, John Hollenbeck) in the Brooklyn Jazz Wide Open series.
WORKS has also developed its own repertoire over the years, highlighting the compositional gifts of its members. The debut CD WORKS gathers these original pieces and shines some overdue light on Gentile, Kelly and Garcia as players and co-thinkers. Their union of flute, piano and drums is a wonderful thing: softly textured, harmonically expansive, percussively engaged and intense, all in the right proportion.
Kelly is the band’s de facto bassist, taking charge of the energized low-end lines in Garcia’s “Island” and “Will” and Kelly’s own “Emanglons,” among others. But Kelly is also prominent as a melody voice, doubling many flute parts while keeping chordal ideas flowing. Of anybody in WORKS it seems Kelly’s job is the hardest, though he doesn’t let it show.
The trio members each play a brief “Soliloquy” — just one of the ways they show their subtlety as individuals. Together they handle the challenges strewn throughout Kelly’s galloping “Hundertwasser,” with a 6/8 theme that shifts ingeniously to 5/8 when the melody returns midway through. Gentile’s “Voir Dire,” in contrast, opens with a fast quasi-serialist motive and later breaks away to free improvisation. There’s a quieter side too, in the romantic chanson vibe of Gentile’s out-of-tempo “C’est Bien Ça” and the dark ambiguity of Kelly’s “Chorale.”
The category stumpers are Garcia’s “Spring Comes ’Round” and the closing track, Gentile’s “Commodius Vicus.” The former is angular and jazzy, free of tempo, but detouring into chamber-like passages and ending on an ominous straight-eighth vamp. The latter generates maddening spirals of counterpoint — melodic and rhythmic — between flute and piano, framed by Garcia’s hip and understated groove accents. There isn’t a stronger example of the trio’s uniqueness and ability.