The "jazz trio" puts a premium on dynamic, independent, instrumental voicing, since there is a wealth of musical space out there for each player to explore. On its second release, Sell Your Soul Side, The Portland, Oregon-based Upper Left Trio (UL3) takes full advantage of that space, offering eight original compositions.
What separates UL3 from other trios is that its holistic vision is never compromised at the expense of egoism. If one were to place Clay Giberson’s piano playing on a continuum, it would fall somewhere between Keith Jarrett and Brad Mehldau. Giberson repeatedly demonstrates his ability to alternate freely between hard-driving, rhythmic punches, disjointed ramblings and classically-geared, melodic runs. The never-intrusive Doggett is up to the task on any cut, hovering percussively, much like Paul Motian on his recent avante-garde trio release, I Have the Room Above Her. Bassist Jeff Leonard utilizes the fretless glissando masterfully; he is equally proficient locking in a groove or soloing, and like Giberson, his lines sing.
The CD begins with the experimental and upbeat "Heads or Tails?". The effects, used sparingly here, signal to the listener early that this is not just another ordinary jazz album. The trio, however, is not obsessed with peddles and toys as opposed to, say, Medeski, Martin and Wood, or other acid jazzers who have chosen wholeheartedly to embrace 22nd century sounds. For UL3, the musicianship rises to the top time and time again. The title cut, "Sell Your Soul Side," features a Bitches Brew-like, fusion groove that effortlessly drops into an introspective, sonorous melody. The languid, melodic A-section of the ten-minute "Comrade Camenzind" calls to mind a recent piano jazz cover of "Cat’s in the Cradle."
While Sell Your Soul Side is not quite the CD to replace Keith Jarrett’s The Melody at Night With You on the rotation because of its rhythmic starts and stops, the quiet moments are in abundance. The ironically unsettled "This is Where I Find Peace," the fine last cut, "Prayer," and the tasteful Joni Mitchell cover, "All I Want," are testament to the fact. In "Finding Peace," the listener will have discovered one of the Pacific Northwest’s and Origin Records’ most original and satisfying trios in recent memory.