When the liner notes of a record explain the music contained within in relation to Doctor Abraham Maslow’s "Hierarchy Of Needs" at length, there is likely one of two things happening: 1) pretentiousness, or 2) a genuine connection to the music the players are making and strong, probing minds to back up and explain their choices. Thankfully, the latter is what’s happening with the Tyler Summers Trio debut recording Trinity. These guys may be young and recently graduated from the University of North Texas Jazz Studies program, but they seem dedicated and respectful of their music and genuinely want to make a connection with their audience. For a group of young jazz musicians to have that goal (human connection) be so high on their list, and for it to be expressed so overtly, is very refreshing.
While the music is not altogether deep and mature yet, every member of the group has talent and energy to burn and together they create a synergistic, highly charged unit. Although their goal is to connect with one another and the audience in general, the music tends toward the cerebral side of modern jazz. Their immediate influences are obvious and well chosen: Kenny Garrett, Branford Marsalis Quartet/Trio, and Ornette Coleman are the main suspects. They are definitely interested in pushing the music. While they’ve got good start on the sound, techniques, and forms of these artists and styles, much of their own writing/playing is not yet breathing; not yet loose and comfortable like their mentors. All the material on Trinity (much of it interesting and adventurous) is original and written by either saxophonist/leader Summers or bassist Matt Wigton. Like many other modern jazz players today (including their influences mentioned earlier), rhythmic complexities are a large part of the writing and playing here: odd time signatures, rhythmic displacements, etc.... Sometimes this is intriguing, but just as often here it is off-putting as it doesn’t have an organic feel yet; feeling like it’s written out of duty instead of desire. This organic nature may indeed come about for them as they all grow into their own voices over the years.
The most interesting track here is "Compromising Fate," and it is maybe the most personal one. It begins with a rhythmically challenging bass ostinato by itself out front, a relatively short theme, and then some aggressive blowing. A second section emerges from this when a hip-hop drum beat (produced with an interesting ambient sound on the snare particularly) is introduced while Wigton solos over the groove playing minimal arco bass with reverb (think Jimmy Page playing his guitar with a bow on ‘Dazed and Confused’). Then, a third section grows out of this groove with a vamp that would fit well on John Zorn’s Tzadik label: ‘The Masada Chill-Out Remix.’Research on the internet indicates that this group is keeping very busy with their playing. They’re a good bunch of young players (among many) to keep your eyes on for the future.