Literary critic Harold Bloom’s contentious phrase - "the anxiety of influence" - sulks and stalks behind the majority of modern, young jazz musicians; simply meaning that many of them are so busy either avoiding or imitating their predecessors that genuine personality is lost in the process. Certain praise is due, then, to native Texan Garreth Broesche, whose trio (inexplicably expanded to a quartet for the first six tracks here) manages to incorporate their highly visible influences into a dignified, traditional mix all the more adept, elegant, and free-flowing for the modern sheen that coats its contours. If the group spends its time shuttling between the frenzy of high-strung Djangology and the laid-back chug of Basieite swing, then these formalities are offset and enhanced by a modern musical personality - comfortable with its current - which neither slavishly recreates nor blindly runs from its tributaries.
This quality is due in large part to the mixture of classic material and unexpected instrumentation - Broesche’s mandolin quickly signals gimmickry, but his languorous, full-bodied inventiveness with the instrument lays such fears to rest. As mentioned, the mixture of Broesche on mandolin, Chris Gage on punctually chorded guitar and Lindsay Green on sure-footed bass instantly recalls the spirit of Django and Stephane Grappelly’s quickly traded solos with the Hot Club of France. In particular, alternate guitarist J.D. Pendley’s solo flights (on the three live tracks included at the end of the disc) replete with single note flurries strung between upbeat chordal accents, ooze out from the mystery of an era long gone. "Caravan" carouses with a gypsy swivel, "I’m Coming, Virginia" rocks slowly back and forth on a porch in the north Georgia woods, and the rapid exchanges and thoughtfully echoed phrases in "Straight, No Chaser" burn hot and quick like a cigarette in a fifties night club. These old fashioned flavors boil deep within the Broesche trio, providing the music with a full-bodied resonance - the sound of resources selected in contemplation and celebration.
But the reason such prevalent influence never ultimately overwhelms the group resides in its ability to inject splashes of sensitivity, humor or high-mindedness as the modern ear demands. Not in a sarcastic or ironic way, but with just enough wit to wax a moment fresh with surprise. On "Straight, No Chaser," for example, Broesche’s solo starts as a logical exposition of Monk’s well-worn theme, ending with a typically Monkian four-note figure repeated in half time over the frantic full time strumming of Pendley. Then, after an uneventful two choruses by the guitarist, all three curve off into one half time chorus, cleverly commenting on Broesche’s solo, saluting the singular call and response worked into each wrinkle of Monkian musical fabric. This is the kind of well considered and well executed maneuver that endows the Broesche Trio’s material with personality, energy, and authenticity - it is not a studied feeling, but one that shows the fun of careful study. Perhaps Broesche’s originals are a bit less convincing (though he does pull off some unique rhymes - passion/rehashin’?), though they display the same comfortable elements of well-worn influence and open-ended artistry.
If there is one significant complaint here, it lies with Broesche’s singing; his thin, reedy voice tends to go off a bit on longer-held notes, or just sounds cartoonish on the mercifully short "My New Girlfriend." The lower, languorous aroma of "My Funny Valentine" comes off well, but on the whole his vocal stylings sit unnecessary and unpolished on display next to the group’s formidable musical talents. In all, it is less a criticism of the leader’s voice as it is a compliment to the sure-footed, well-cultivated instrumental interplay going on around it. A fine debut form a group that will likely grow with time.