Crimson Jazz Trio
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Crimson Jazz Trio

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The best kept secret in music


"JazzTimes December 2005 by Ron Wynn"

The Crimson Jazz Trio's lineup of pianist Jody Nardone, bassist Tim Landers and drummer Ian Wallace has been careful not to distort King Crimson's melodies, but they do lots of tinkering, restructuring and harmonic adjustments on Songbook. Songs like "21st Century Schizoid Man," "Catfood," "Red" and "Ladies of the Road" are easily recognizable during the trio's opening passages, then Nardone executes catchy, quirky solos ably embellished by the interplay of Landers and Wallace.

While Nardone's the main soloist, Wallace's control of the pace is equally vital to the trio's success; his bombastic power and percussive authority proves the prime extra ingredient. Landers divides his time between complementing Wallace and providing alternate directions for Nardone.

The Crimson Jazz Trio's reconfigurations should inspire longtime King Crimson lovers to revisit the original versions of the likes of "Three of a Perfect Pair" and "Starless." They will find that the Crimson Jazz Trio has not just celebrated but enhanced King Crimson's compositions. - ©2005 JazzTimes, Inc.

"All About Jazz review by John Kelman"

With all manner of jazz musicians reinventing the music of contemporary pop artists today, it’s inevitable that somebody would decide to take a close look at the cream of progressive rock, reinventing it in a more decidedly jazz context. If artists like Brad Mehldau can reshape Radiohead, then why not re-examine King Crimson, a seminal influence?

Enter Ian Wallace, drummer for the Crimson incarnation that released Islands (Island, 1971). While on tour in 2004 with 21st Century Schizoid Band—a group of ex-Crimson members who relatively faithfully recreate songs from In the Court of the Crimson King (Island, 1969) through Islands, in addition to other like-minded material—Wallace had the idea for reinventing classic Crimson material in a piano trio format.

Enter pianist Jody Nardone and bassist Tim Landers—two big Crimson fans—and the Crimson Jazz Trio (CJ3) was born. The group's first release, The King Crimson Songbook, Volume One, is not only surprisingly faithful to the essence of the eight songs it covers, but the general arrangements as well, while shifting them firmly into the jazz mainstream.

If there is any criticism of these pieces, it’s that they are almost too faithful. Mehldau sometimes refashions material so that it’s almost unrecognizable; CJ3’s interpretations never stray too far. For progressive rockers coming to jazz, this might be a good thing, but for more seasoned jazzers for whom King Crimson is part of a broader musical continuum, this approach may seem too safe. Despite the fine playing on The King Crimson Songbook, Volume One, one wonders what might have happened had these three players been a little more adventurous and taken the material a little further.

Still, there are some surprises to be found. The brightly swinging “Ladies of the Road” is the only song from Wallace’s time with the group. The industrial intensity of “21st Century Schizoid Man” from In the Court of the Crimson King is reinvented first as contemporary lounge music, then moves into a more fiery solo section. “I Talk to the Wind,” from the same album, retains its pastoral beauty, while the bluesy “Cat Food,” from In the Wake of Poseidon, plays it straight, yet manages to suggest pianist Keith Tippett’s free style playing on the original. Landers takes the lead on “Matte Kudesai,” from Discipline (EG, 1981), giving the tune a Jaco Pastorius-like interpretation.

The title track from Red (Island, 1974)—a hugely influential song to progressive metal groups like Tool—works best. It clearly references the elements that define the original, but it’s more liberally worked over, with a funky rethinking of the orchestral middle section featuring a powerful drum solo from Wallace.

The King Crimson Songbook, Volume One is an intriguing reshaping of material from a band that has always had a tenuous relationship with the jazz aesthetic. If there’s a Volume Two, perhaps more time together will find CJ3 taking more risks with the material, a move more in keeping with the ongoing Crimson spirit of Robert Fripp, the only original member to be involved in every Crimson incarnation. - ©2005 All About Jazz

"Anchorage Press-November 2005 by John M. James"

Slipping into a wickedly slick after-hours vibe, Fripp-heads must also check out The Crimson Jazz Trio and their new King Crimson Songbook on the Voiceprint label. Helmed by drummer Ian Wallace, who played on the band's Island album from 1971, with pianist Jody Nardone and former Vital Information bassist Tim Landers, the trio's new interpretations of classics selections like “21rst Century Schizoid Man,” “Catfood,” and “Red” are playful, lush, and highly recommended... - ©2005 Anchorage Publishing, Inc.

"Downbeat review by John Ephland"

Labs For Three
Jazz invites, almost begs for, constant reinterpretation. And the jazz trio, a staple of the music, is one of the best labs to hear it.

Crimson Jazz Trio: The King Crimson Songbook: Volume 1 (Voiceprint 373; 61:55) *** 1/2

From the beginning, English prog-rockers King Crimson had a jazz sensibility. Former Crimson drummer Ian Wallace, in the tradition of fellow alum Bill Bruford, again shows that a rocker can also swing. With pianist Jody Nardone and bassist Tim Landers (Vital Information), CJ3 plucks songs from different eras and plays them relatively straight: This is not an acoustic version of a rock band but a mainstream jazz interpretation/reinvention of pop material. Granted, the unrecognizability factor creeps into "Cat Food," "21st Century Schizoid Man," "Starless," and "Red." - ©2006 Maher Publications

"LA Jazz Scene review by Bob Comden"

The Crimson Jazz Trio performed at La Ve Lee in November for a one-night engagement. It was a CD release party for their new CD, Crimson Jazz Trio, King Crimson Songbook Volume One. This is a new, hot group and they lit La Ve Lee on fire with some first-rate jazz. Leader, Ian Wallace, is from England and has lived in the U.S. for about 17-years and at one time was a member of the band, King Crimson. The group was formed in England in 1969 and teh eerie, portentous sound of the early King Crimson band set the tone for British rock. The group started out with a heavy sound and psychedeleic lyrics but shifted toward music that was more eccentric, complex and dissonant.

At La Ve Lee, the trio consisted of Wallace on drums, Jody Nardone on electric keyboard (he usually plays acoustic grand piano) and Tim Landers on fretless bass guitar. I was very impressed with their first-rate musicianship, energy and outstanding solo work throughout the two-set performance. This was the their first live performance as a trio and they were absolutely on target. They filled the room to standing room only. Some prominent attendees in the audience included legendary drummer Earl Palmer, Don Grusin, Freddie Gruber and Robert Palmer, to name a few. The new CD was for sale and they were selling fast.

I was not familiar with the group's music but after hearing their CD and their performance at La Ve Lee I was convinced that they have combined first-rate jazz with a rock sound that works well. Their tunes are adventurous and complex, displaying many different sounds, moods and tempo changes. They are not meant to just cover songs but there is an attempt to make them new and interesting. They have chosen their material well and have reinvented the tunes. Each tune was given its own strong personality, as they explore the rich melodic themes from the Crimson library.

"21st Century Schizoid Man" started out with Nardone playing piano melodically, with Wallace using brushes. The tune picked up speed as Wallace switched to sticks and Nardone drove hard on his delightful solo. The tune swung hard and got into a great jazz groove. Wallace let loose with some great drum fills on his brief solos. The arrangement was just outstanding. "Starless" was a beauty, with Nardone beginning, followed by Landers' exquisite bass playing, then back to Nardone, who continued the magic. It was a very hypnotic tune, with lots of space and free-flowing, tasty drumming from Wallace. The tune kept building in tension as Wallace's drumming got more agressive and exciting. It then went into a straight-ahead groove for a while. A great tune, with many moods and rhythmic grooves. "Ladies of the Road" was a lively piece with Nardone in top form at the keyboards. This one cooked!

"Heartbeat" is from the upcoming second CD that's already in the works. The tune was easy and mellow, with a lot of space. "Lament" began slowly but also went into a straight-ahead feel, combining some Latin rhythms. The second park had a heavier beat and was more high energy. The crowd loved the tune. "Talk to the Wind" was another pretty tune with cascades of notes from Nardon and Wallace using brushes. Strong bass playing from Landers added a solid foundation. "Picture City" was a straight-ahead swinger with mood changes in the middle section, then went back to swing. The interaction between the musicians was outstanding. "Frame by Frame" was being performed lived for the first time and it was a doozey! Everyone was featured on the up tempo piece. Wallace demostrated his amazing drumming skills on an extended sol, then the others came back in seamlessly.l Nardone breezed through the changes with lightning spee, amazing everyone. Landers was right there, adding his own flash. What a finish!

The crowd wanted more so the trio came back with "Red," a dynamic piece that showed, once again, just how powerful a trio can be. The audience loved the group and I hope they come back real soon. Their rock edge combined with straight ahead jazz is a formula that you might think wouldn't work well, but they proved it can work in the right hands. - ©2005 Myrna Daniels/L.A. Jazz Scene

" review by Glenn Astarita"

Blessed by King Crimson founder and guitarist Robert Fripp, this mainstream jazz trio rendering of KC tunes, exceeds expectations. But it’s not to infer that these folks aren’t capable. Sure, they’re skilled artisans, evidenced by first-call session heroes, bassist Tim Landers and Ian Wallace, (one-time-KC drummer). Add to that, the exciting pianist Jody Nardone, who personalizes celebrated pieces such as the garrulous classic, “21st Century Schizoid Man,” and others. Not merely textbook readings set to the jazz idiom, the trio morphs a distinct slant into these predominately hardcore, progressive-rock works.

Nardone is a flashy soloist who possesses maturity and an expansive scope of ideas here. He injects rippling arpeggios amid accenting twirls and soulful chord progressions. And the rhythm section swings with a vengeance. Remarkably, these rock-based opuses sound as though they were composed for a jazz unit. Hence, the band fuses gobs of stirring sentiment into these pieces, to complement torrid soloing maneuvers and cleverly articulated spins on classics such as “Red,” “Catfood,” and other favorites. This project signifies the first volume where the trio covers KC’s songbook, spanning the late 60s through the early 80s. We can only assume that they will pursue the subsequent phases of the highly influential prog-band’s discography. It’s a late entry, top-10 pick for 2005! - Copyright©1997 - 2006. All Rights Reserved. Glenn Astarita &®

"Progressive Ears review by Dan Lawrie"

I really didn't know quite what to expect with this project, but the idea of a jazz trio interpreting the music of King Crimson was just too much to resist. I'm a big fan of Crimso, and the "jazz trio" format (piano, bass, drums) has always been my favorite jazz vehicle, so how could this be a bad thing?

Drummer/Crimso alum Ian Wallace came up with the idea while performing with the tribute act "21st Century Schizoid Band" and fleshed it out with pianist Jody Nardone and bassist Tim Landers, both long-time King Crimson fans. It was recorded at Landers' home studio, and Nardone likes to call it "Swing Crimson".

Prog meets jazz, jazz meets prog, whatever. There's something here for each camp. The Crimson Jazz Trio is faithful to the melodies and themes of the original compositions, perhaps to a fault. But the arrangements for jazz trio are exquisite. Nardone's grand piano gives each tune a thorough workout. He's a fantastic player. Landers' fretless bass work reminds me favorably of one Eberhard Weber, both in tone and technique. And Wallace is a much better drummer than I remember.

The Crimson Jazz Trio covers King Crimson tunes from the first album through Discipline, so they pretty much cover the spectrum. Each track is a revelation into what the original music has to offer. Standouts for me are the translations of "21st Century Schizoid Man", "Starless" and "Red". While the melodies are readily recognizable, the arrangements and execution take these tunes to another level. Just brilliant!

Now, this isn't some "Genesis for 2 Grand Pianos" or "Yes for Orchestra" or similar crap. This is the real deal. This is great music done by an extraordinary jazz trio. File under "exceptional".

I can only hope that there will be a "Volume 2". - ©2005 Progressive Ears/Vinylroolz

"Critic's Pick - Lexington Herald-Leader review by Walter Tunis"

The Crimson Jazz Trio flirts with the impossible: transforming Crimson's back catalog into a piano jazz repertoire. Informed hands guide the experiment, though -- specifically, those of early '70s Crimson drummer Ian Wallace. As such, the frenzied guitar refrain from 1969's 21st Century Schizoid Man turns into playful swing, while 1971's neopsychedelic nugget Cat Food bears a rich warmth (and a brief canine cameo) that revels in the original's sense of melodic whimsy. Sure, this adventurous material gets its wings clipped at times with only three acoustic instruments to give it flight. But the end result is obvious: finely composed music always invites discovery. Such is the case here. - ©2005 Knight-Ridder

" review by George W. Carroll"

The first thing I want to say about this project is about the wonderful bass sound Tim Landers gets out of his fretless bass guitar. It's the closest thing to an acoustic sound I've heard from a''Fender'' bass in a month of Sundays!! Light, singing tone, lyrical, contrasting, rubato, expressive, demanding, colorful, etc......These are words that express my positive response to this tight & creative jazz trio. Jazz pianist Jody Nardone, plus group, take us through their fine harmonic prelude of wondrous transitional, chromatic, melodic, & modulatory music with exquisite form & panache. It's a veritable festival of good solid music. - ©2005 George W. Carroll/The Musicians' Ombudsman


Released November 2005:
King Crimson Songbook, Volume One

King Crimson Songbook, Volume Two


Feeling a bit camera shy


Masterminded by Islands era King Crimson drummer Ian Wallace, the idea for the trio came to him while on tour with the 21st Century Schizoid Band, another Crimson related project. “I had so much fun playing these songs again, especially live where there was much improvisation,” Wallace explains.” I thought it might be a cool idea to rearrange some of Crimson material in a jazz format.”

In addition to Ian Wallace, the CJ3 is rounded out by Jody Nardone and former Vital Information bassist Tim Landers. All are longtime fans of Crimson and bring in a jazz sensibility that is a perfect fit for the ever-flexible Wallace.

The newest member of the CJ3 is Finnish born Mathias Aspelin. Mathias started playing the piano at an early age, but didn't take his first lesson until he was nine and still it wasn't long before he was performing solo and as an accompanist. While still in high school, he graduated from the Kuula Institute for Classical Studies. After high school and a year of compulsory military training, he was accepted to Balliol College at Oxford University, but put it off a year when he won a scholarship to study with Joanne Brackeen at Berklee College of Music. He then returned to Oxford and earned a degree in mathematical sciences and received a "University Best Result" in philosophy. Mathias returned to the full-time study of music at the prestigious Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland in 2001. Within two years, he earned a Fulbright scholarship that would bring him to the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. At USC, he studied with Alan Pasqua (who recommended him to Ian Wallace) and Vince Mendoza. Most recently, Mathias was selected to participate in the Mancini Institute for emerging professional musicians, and he was a winner in the John Coltrane Scholarship Competition 2004.

CJ3 pianist Jody Nardone began studying and performing at the age of three. After graduating high school, Nardone attended William Paterson University of NJ, where he earned a Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Studies and Performance. He relocated to Nashville in 1994 in pursuit of a major label recording contract. Nardone spent the fall of 2003 through spring of ‘04 as a member of former Max Roach sideman/jazz trumpeter Rod McGaha's quartet, performs regularly as sideman, studio musician, vocalist and producer/arranger with countless artists such as Annie Sellick, Bret Michaels, Jeff Black, Bob Delevante, The Floating Men, The Jim Hoke Nonet, Cyndi Wheeler and Scott Carter. Jody has shared the stage with vocalists Michael McDonald and Kevin Whalum, as well as bassist Garry Tallent of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band and is a member of the music faculty at Currey Ingram Academy, Brentwood, Tennessee where he has been Artist in Residence since 1996.

Tim Landers can be found most every day in one of LA's many recording studios either playing bass or writing for television shows and commercials, feature films and recording projects. This gifted player has collaborated with a stellar roster of talent including Mike Stern, Tiger Okoshi, Vinnie Colaiuta, Al DiMeola, Gil Evans, and Billy Cobham to just scratch the surface. Landers also formed Vital Information with ex- Journey drummer Steve Smith. Tim has recorded and performed with Lee Ritenour, Dave Grusin, Tori Amos, Tracey Chapman, John Tesh, Frank Gambale, David Foster, Al Stewart, Go West, James Ingram, Stevie Nicks, Stan Ridgeway, Terence Trent D'Arby and Loreena McKennitt.

As for Ian Wallace, his expertise with the beat has never stopped being in demand by such notables as Bonnie Raitt, Don Henley, Larry Coryell, Bob Dylan, Procol Harum and The Traveling Wilburys. As a producer and player, he has worked with singer/songwriter Andy West and new MCA artist Jessi Alexander and Fission Trip featuring Mel Collins, Michael Clay, Ernie Myers and John Billings with special guest; Adrian Belew. Among his recent studio recordings have included sessions with producer Pat Leonard and Skye Edwards of Morcheeba, Nanci Griffith, Rosie Flores, Rodney Crowell, legendary songwriter Dan Penn and the musical "The Ten Commandments". Wallace also tours as a member of the 21st Century Schizoid Band.

The combination of these master craftsmen with one focus results in joyous, celebratory jazz.