Jason Domnarski Trio
"Notes From the Underground"

Jason Domnarski Trio Notes From the Underground

Review by Brad Walseth

There is a nice video out on You Tube showing this trio playing a version of the David Bowie-penned '70s Mott the Hoople rock hit. "All the Young Dudes," so one shouldn't be surprised that this talented NYC-based pianist and his group should veer into rock and pop territory on Domnarski's second release as a leader. But jazz fans should not be dissuaded by this fact, as the overall style is still one of jazz in harmonics and band interplay.

"Shape Shifters," a melodious toe-tapping original, starts things of nicely and displays Domnarski, bassist John Davis and drummer Dave Mason’s ability to play a somewhat more conventional style (with pop leanings). The merging of elements is turned up a notch on "Big in Japan," where the rock and even bass 'n drum influence is felt in this pleasing number. Domnarski also adds some effected piano - something he is known for doing. Clearly grounded in traditional jazz, the group, somewhat like some other experimental modern trios (hello, Bad Plus) feels free to call on other influences and to take chances, which often makes for compelling listening.

Domnarski is also noted for using unusual keyboards, and here seems to be using one on "Tofu Queen" to create a somewhat ominous, yet fascinating sonic landscape that seems almost like a theme for a silent movie running slightly offspeed in a boarded up nickelodeon. "G-Unit" continues the fun with a dramatic piece with heart-rending changes – one of my favorites. Meanwhile, "New Yorkistan," reminds me of the direction fellow New Yorker, saxophonist David Binney explores, with its kinetic energy and strong and shifting rhythms pulsing under sophisticated melodic ideas.

The only cover on the album, is an intriguing take on the David Bowie song, "Life on Mars," one of Bowie's best and strongest melodies from early in his career. Again some unusual keyboard sounds punctuate the mellow music, and the melodic theme lends itself well to extended soloing. Throughout, Davis and Mason are subtle and solid in support. The loping "Feedback" is another highlight, which again recalls the old vaudevillian feel of the piano over a rock beat, while "Detune" ends the album strongly with interesting changes and strange sounds. "Notes from the Underground" takes the listener into Domnarski's world, where musical styles blend and invent a new and quite mesmerizing soundtrack.

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