While it took awhile for my aged brain to figure out why the OWL Trio had chosen that name for itself, it took no time at all to figure out their eponymous album was a winner. One trip through the disc made that abundantly clear. The OWL Trio, based in New York, combines the talents of three musicians from different backgrounds who met 10 years ago and have played together off and on in a variety of ensembles since. The trio, they explain, “should have been an obvious move.”
In reverse order as they are listed on their album, the OWLs are guitarist Lage Lund, saxophonist, Will Vincent and bassist Orlando le Fleming. Lage, a Norwegian transplant, is a Thelonious Monk competition winner, who has played with Wynton Marsalis, David Sanchez and Maria Schneider. Vinson, originally from London, has five albums under his belt as leader, and points to influences by saxophonists from Canonnball to Chris Potter. Born in Birmingham, England, Fleming left 10 years ago. He has played with Branford Marsalis and Jeff “Train” Watt, among others. These are musician’s musicians.
Their new album, recorded in an abandoned Brooklyn church by Jimmy Katz, is a nice mix of standards and original material, and they were at first somewhat daunted by the “cavernous, un-renovated, unheated” space and how they would deal with the unusual acoustics. However, they needn’t have worried: “A sound emerged. . . . What we heard when we listened back to the audio was the product of our years of musical association, with the catalyst of an unexpected location, and we knew it was the start of something.” Judging from the new album, they were right.
Putting together this release, the group has come up with a creative sound that is as much their own as that of any ensemble working today. They take tunes from the Great American Songbook like “From This Moment On,” “Yesterdays” and “Sweet and Lovely” and give them just enough of a creative twist to breathe new life into them. They may be old songs but these selections are played with a new vitality. OWL Trio takes classic jazz standards and give them sensitive new readings. There is an elegant exploration of John Coltrane’s “Dear Lord” by Vinson and he shines on Duke Ellington’s “Morning Glory” which opens the album.
Perhaps most interesting of all are the three free jazz pieces. “Hallow,” “Churchgoing,” and “Blues for Jimmy” all demonstrate the comfort these artists have with each other. Not all free jazz works, but it does here. They are cohesive performances that, as the titles suggest, remain in the moment.
If this album is any indication, The OWL is a trio to watch out for.