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John Beasley, José Armando Gola, Horacio “El Negro” Hernández – El Trio: Live in Italy

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John Beasley, José Armando Gola, Horacio "El Negro" Hernández. Photo: GianCarlo Brunelli
John Beasley, Horacio "El Negro" Hernández, José Armando Gola. Photo: GianCarlo Brunelli

Musicians – especially pianists, albeit playing electric instruments – who venture into the realm of ‘trio music’ do so at their own peril, especially with such masters as Art Tatum, Nat Cole, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Paul Bley, Ahmad Jamal, Vince Guaraldi, Brad Mehldau, and others looking over their shoulders. But John Beasley, for one, together with José Armando Gola and Horacio “El Negro” Hernández, of course, has long gone past intimidation to produce ten spectacular charts – played and beautifully captured in Live in Italy, which also marks a change from the stately norm of acoustic instrumentation.

It is clear from the moment of first entry – Preludio di Trio – that begins softly before beginning to rise in a crashing crescendo of music that the performing musicians know the importance of embracing the past [of the glorious musical continuum to which they all belong] while also going their own way in short order. The apogee of that [thought] comes three charts later when the trio executes a quite brilliant and breathless interpretation of Elegant People, the Weather Report classic written by the legendary Wayne Shorter.

John Beasley, José Armando Gola, Horacio “El Negro” Hernández - El Trio: Live in Italy
John Beasley, José Armando Gola, Horacio “El Negro” Hernández – El Trio: Live in Italy

El Trio’s version is as much a case for reminding us of their [the musicians of El Trio, that is] de rigueur musical braggadocio as it is a proverbial doffing of the hat in reverence to both a past master, who wrote the song and performed it as part of the unforgetable group he once co-led. What better way to embrace the past in their own way? The swirling gestures by each musician – particularly Mr Beasley – appear like bolts of lightning from [and onto] the brightly-lit sky of the sound world of this outstanding group.

Each of the members of this trio also have their own individual moments in the sun. Mr Gola’s comes shortly after Elegant People, on his Bass Solo Interlude. His harmonics make for a searing solo expedition on an instrument that has been dominated by Jaco Pastorius that it is hard for any succeeding electric bassist to “have your individual say.” But Mr Gola breaks the ‘electric-bass-players’ curse and makes a beautifully recorded work sound astonishingly eloquent as well.

As in all of the works recorded here, the writing is concise in structure and generous in tonal language, savouring both the dramatic and the poetic. Moreover, the musicians have interiorised each others’ ideas magnificently. This makes for surprising and idiomatic interpretations throughout the performance of this outstanding repertoire.

A penultimate thought: the piano trio [essentially] forms the rhythmic component of a larger musical universe. This trio could never have produced the electrifying music that it does without the wizardry of the inimitable Horacio “El Negro” Hernández. With the rolling thunder of his drums, punctuated by the celestial hissing of cymbals, the occasional ringing of the cowbell and whatever else he has in his armoury is used to make the most memorable music on this recording.

Just for the heck of it, cue Camino de Mango that leads into the rebellious finale, Arroz con Mango, of a truly magnificent album. Having said that, it is a pity that the producers chose to cut out the audience appreciation, which could only have been riotous. But it is the only thing that diminishes the production. The music is sublime…

Deo gratis…

youtube audio: en 4 (live) – el trio: live in italy

Music – 1: Preludio di Trio; 2: 3 For Africa; 3: En 4; 4: Elegant People; 5: Song for Dub; 6: Sierra; 7: Bass Solo Interlude; 8: Timbeando; 9: Camino de Mango; 10: Arroz con Mango.

Musicians – John Beasley: keyboards and synthesizers; José Armando Gola: electric bass; Horacio “El Negro” Hernández: drums.

Released – 2024
Label – Challenge Records [CR73573]
[challengerecords.com]
Runtime – 1:06:19

Based in Milton, Ontario, Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

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