Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Myriad3 - Vera (ALMA RECORDS 2018)

Vera is the sound of a band at the very top of its game.  To be released on Alma Records on September 21 (USA), September 28 (worldwide), the fourth album from the acclaimed Toronto-based trio is an adventurous yet always accessible work that showcases both the compositional skills of each member and their considerable prowess as musicians.

The creative chemistry at play within Myriad3 (comprising keyboardist Chris Donnelly, bassist Dan Fortin, and drummer/multi-instrumentalist Ernesto Cervini) is perfectly complemented by the veteran team of producer Peter Cardinali and engineer/mixer John “Beetle” Bailey.  That dynamic duo has manned the board on all the group’s albums to date, and their deep understanding of the Myriad3’s sound and vision remains an invaluable asset.

The recording of Vera took place over a week at Toronto’s Union Sound, with another few days devoted to judicious overdubs on some of the tracks.  Cervini adds bass clarinet, clarinet, flute, alto sax, glockenspiel and a host of percussion instruments, with Donnelly adding Fender Rhodes on “Couche Tard,” synth on a couple of other tunes, and spoons on “Piano-Rag-Music.”  Vera was recorded, mixed and mastered in ultira hi 24bit/192kHz resolution.

Setting the tone for Vera is the opening composition, Donnelly’s “Pluie Lyonnaise,” named for a very rainy concert in Lyon.  It has a peaceful and reflective feel, one mirrored by many of the other pieces here.  Donnelly notes that “our previous record, Moons, was quite dark, but this one is more tranquil.”

To Fortin, “there is a meditative yet intense quality to our music.  I like the idea of making music that effectively stays in the same place yet builds too.  There is stasis but intensity and development too.”  Those characteristics are present in such Fortin compositions as “Fortress” and the gently hypnotic album closer “Total.”

The members of Myriad3 have refreshing eclectic and divergent musical tastes and inspirations.  Dan observes that “we all come from different places and listen to different music, but when a record is done it always feels cohesive and of a piece.  That is just a very natural process for us.”

Fortin explains that his compositions came out of listening to a lot of shoegaze and hard rock styles.  “It was less about writing songs that sounded like that kind of music and more about capturing a vibe they feature,” he says.  Such creative ingenuity is shared by Ernesto Cervini.  On Myriad3’s second album, The Where, his tune “Der Trockner” was inspired by the sound of his clothes dryer.  On Vera, his piece “Tamboa” is, he explains, “based on a little wooden instrument that was a Christmas gift from my wife.  It is a mallet instrument, a little like a marimba, and I wrote the opening line on it that forms the basis of the composition.”

The Myriad3 tradition of one outside cover per record is maintained in delightful style on Vera, as the trio puts a fresh spin on “Piano-Rag-Music,” an Igor Stravinsky composition written in 1919.  Donnelly explains:  “I learned it years ago, then brought it to the band.  It is by turns hilarious, ironic and surreal, and we spent two years really digging into and rehearsing it.”

Prior to recording, Myriad 3 work intensively on the material in rehearsal and then in performance, but there is always spontaneity in their approach.  “We don’t decide in advance too much on the way things will be shaped.  We let it grow the way it wants to,” Fortin explains.  To Donnelly, “Like all our records, Vera is a reflection of a period of time in which we get together an work things out.  It is a process, rather than something preconceived.”

That process has served Myriad3 well.  The Where was nominated for a coveted Juno Award (the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy) in 2015 and the group is now in demand on both the European and North American jazz festival and club circuits.

Within the jazz sphere, most groups are built around one leader, but the full-blooded democratic nature of Myriad3 is a real strength.  “What pleases me most is seeing how we have developed, musically and personal,” says Cervini, while Donnelly notes, “it allows us to grow and flow.”

The growth of Myriad3 is showcased compellingly on Vera, an album worthy of your close attention.