upper left trio
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upper left trio


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The best kept secret in music


"Cycling 2"

It's hard to put the finger on what makes for a successful piano trio set. Some of jazz's bona fide great keyboard players turn in less than inspired efforts, sets that just don't hold the listener's interest for the duration of an hour of music. It's probably the worst critism that can be made of a recording – that it just doesn't hold interest. And the piano trio format can be particularly unforgiving.

And having said that, the other side of the coin is that occasionally you'll come across virtual unknowns, coming at you from out of the blue, who turn in a engaging and delicious set of sounds with just a piano, bass and drums. Such is the case with the Upper Left Trio's Cycling .

Aside from the fact that the musicians – drummer Charlie Doggett, pianist Clay Giberson, and bassist Jeff Leonard – are based in Portland, Oregon, I know nothing of them, except that they've come up with a forward-looking, sit-on-the-edge-of-the-listening-chair set of songs for this set.

So what's it take to do that? What's this trio bring to the table that facinates and engages?

One, the guys all write, always with strong melodies. Two, Doggett, in addition to being a fine timekeeper, is adept at adding a weave of textures without overdoing it. Three, Leonard, on the electric bass here, makes good and subtle use of sustain – making him sound at times almost as though he's bowing an accoustic bass, with a rich dark wash behind the textures. Four, piano man Giberson is a skilled young musician with a constant flow of ideas. For comparison's sake, think Brad Mehldau, with a more outgoing and maybe more urgent approach.

Also – and this is critical – the bass/drum team rides along a notch or two above the accompanist's or supporting role, full-fledged members of the musical team.

Strong melodies are a central strength of Cycling , but oddly (with that thought in mind), my highlight is drummer Doggett's "Simplicate" the song with the most classical, ethereal, brooding feel to it. Another favorite is the spring-in-the-step "Funzies," with a bounce in the melody and some of the best trio interplay on the disc.

These guys are a real find. Just for the sake of argument I'd love to have heard a cover of a progessive rock tune (a la The Bad Plus) from them; but they really don't need it. They all write and play some very fine progressive tunes of their own.

Visit Origin Records at www.origin-records.com .

~Dan McClenaghan - allaboutjazz.com

"Cycling 1"

Upper Left Trio | Origin

It would be too easy to pigeonhole the Upper Left Trio as a Bad Plus wannabe. Doing so would certainly be inaccurate, as the Upper Left Trio exists at approximately the midpoint between the Oscar Peterson Trio and Medeski, Martin, and Wood. The band’s debut recording, Cycling , consists of 10 well-crafted original piano trio compositions that fall conservatively well short of the Bad Plus, producing a record that will not boast the band being the loudest jazz piano trio. The Upper Left Trio can boast being one of the more articulate and thoughtful new trios to emerge in the mainstream in the 21st century.

Fully integrated, the trio acts a unit as opposed to a collection of three individuals. Clay Giberson displays a piano gift that crosses Horace Tapscot with Tommy Flanagan. His playing with the rhythm section of drummer Charlie Doggett and bassist Jeff Leonard displays the true nature of solution in music. Each musician is fully dissolved in the other. This is best illustrated on the opener, “Fine Line,” where Giberson presents a standard introduction before melting with the other band members. “The Start and the End” is the best ballad on the recording, with Doggett’s perfectly accenting drumming spurring the elasticity of Leonard’s bass beneath Giberson’s melodic concept. The breezy gospel tune “Up and Away” weaves in and out of the blues and avant garde. “Cycling” begins with some elastic virtuosity from Leonard, who sets up a bit of a space mood for the piece that ends up being reflective and outspoken.

This disc will appeal to all mainstream listeners who find MM&W too far out there and the Bad Plus too frenetic and loud, while at the same time being a bit bored with the older artists. If this describes you as a listener, pick up a copy of Cycling .

For more information, see Origin Records .

~C. Michael Bailey
- allaboutjazz.com

"Best of Portland 2003"

Yes, Portland music is worth getting passionate about.

One Portland product, Lifesavas' hip-hop masterpiece "Spirit in Stone," made my annual Top 10 albums list, published a few weeks ago. But there were too many terrific works created here -- especially in a year when several discs by area bands gained national acclaim -- to leave it at that. So here's 2003 CD list No. 2: the homegrown top 10..............

5. "Cycling," Upper Left Trio (Origin Records): Former Tom Grant Band bassist Jeff Leonard joins two rising talents, pianist Clay Giberson and drummer Charlie Doggett, for a varied set of tasteful -- but never predigested -- compositions that balance melodic clarity and improvisational elbow room.

- Oregonian

"Cycling 3"

“Cycling”, the debut release by the Upper Left Trio is an absolutely stunning CD. The piano trio is the most basic of the jazz group configurations, but its simplicity inherently increases the difficulty in producing music that is either particularly innovative or engaging, for all but the most casual jazz listener. However, with this recording the Upper Left Trio – consisting of Charlie Doggett on drums, Clay Giberson on piano and Jeff Leonard on bass – has done just that. Every track is inspired – technically flawless and beautifully arranged, yet completely organic and accessible.
What makes this album all the more impressive is the fact that they didn’t have to rely on standards to do it. Not that there’s anything wrong with standards. The individual interpretation of standards is one of the aspects of jazz that makes it such great music. But it’s always nice to see a group of musicians that are not only great players, but great composers as well. Each of the ten songs on this recording was written by a member of the group – four by Giberson, four by Leonard and two by Doggett – and they’re all fantastic. From the locomotive pulse of “Fine Line” to the poignant sway of “The Start and the End”, from the funky groove of “Funzies” to the gospel-inspired “Up And Away,” they continually surprise yet never stray far from the classic, straight-ahead jazz trio style.

Comparisons to the trios of Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett are inevitable, and justly deserved (that’s meant as a compliment - not a complaint). But be that as it might, ULT has nonetheless still managed to record a CD that sounds very personal and uniquely theirs. Their ability to support each other as a trio while constantly improvising and ‘doing their own thing’ is a joy to behold. This is an album that I whole-heartedly recommend, and I eagerly look forward to their next release.

Tracks: Fine Line, The Start And The End, Funzies, There's A Spoon In The Sky, Complications, Falling, Simplicate, Trillium, Up And Away, Cycling

Record Label Website: http://www.origin-records.com

Reviewed by: Roman St. James

- jazzreview.com


CD "Sell Your Soul Side"
Label: OriginArts www.originarts.com

CD Cycling
Label: OriginArts www.originarts.com


Feeling a bit camera shy


Upper Left Trio plays a unique form of original music that pays homage to the tradition of the jazz piano trio, while looking to the future for inspiration. Upper Left Trio or "UL3", converged in 2003 and have released their second CD "Sell Your Soul Side."

"Upper Left Trio can boast being one of the more articulate and thoughtful new trios to emerge in the mainstream in the 21st century."