Tyshawn Sorey's 'Mesmerism' celebrates the everyday miracle of the jazz rhythm trio Each player in this trio addresses the beat in a spontaneous way, without constant chaos. A casual romp like this session makes for breezy listening.

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Tyshawn Sorey's 'Mesmerism' celebrates the everyday miracle of the jazz rhythm trio

Tyshawn Sorey's 'Mesmerism' celebrates the everyday miracle of the jazz rhythm trio

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Each player in this trio addresses the beat in a spontaneous way, without constant chaos. A casual romp like this session makes for breezy listening.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. African American composer and MacArthur fellow Tyshawn Sorey has written music for orchestra, chamber ensembles and opera companies and leads his own groups featuring improvising musicians. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says before Sorey was an acclaimed composer, he was known as an excellent, flexible jazz drummer. A new trio album features Sorey on drums.

(SOUNDBITE OF TYSHAWN SOREY TRIO'S "REM BLUES")

KEVIN WHITEHEAD, BYLINE: Tyshawn Sorey's trio on Duke Ellington's "REM Blues" - just the sort of easy-grooving quickie the Duke would bring to a casual session to get the players in sync. Sorey's ad hoc trio uses it much the same way. They didn't rehearse long for their album "Mesmerism" to keep it loose. A few new music improviser-composers like Tyshawn Sorey have made records where they swing on standards for the pleasure of it and to acknowledge their debt to jazz practices that inform their own layered, complex, multi-vectored music.

(SOUNDBITE OF TYSHAWN SOREY TRIO'S "AUTUMN LEAVES")

WHITEHEAD: Drummer Tyshawn Sorey with pianist Aaron Diehl and bassist Matt Brewer on the oldie "Autumn Leaves." To play his own compositions, Sorey has another piano trio that make it very spare and un-jazzy, closer to Morton Feldman than Monk. But this present jazz trio has its own transparent sound. Aaron Diehl is a deft trio pianist and generous accompanist who knows not to overplay. Piano and bass leave plenty of room for Tyshawn's limber mutate of drums, which blend propulsion and punctuation.

(SOUNDBITE OF TYSHAWN SOREY TRIO'S "AUTUMN LEAVES")

WHITEHEAD: This Tyshawn Sorey trio can play lightly and politely, but they also dig in. On Horace Silver's "Enchantment," they leave open space, but every part fits together drum choir-style. Bass becomes a percussion instrument like piano, drums and cymbals.

(SOUNDBITE OF TYSHAWN SOREY TRIO'S "ENCHANTMENT")

WHITEHEAD: Tyshawn Sorey and bassist Matt Brewer have played together in a few bands and have a good understanding. Each instantly adjusts to the other's micro fluctuations. Brewer's sturdy old-school bass thump gives the band a sound bottom and lets him testify with authority.

(SOUNDBITE OF TYSHAWN SOREY TRIO'S "REM BLUES")

WHITEHEAD: Alongside "Blues," "Autumn Leaves" and "Detour Ahead," for this tradition-minded date, Tyshawn Sorey brought tunes by Muhal Richard Abrams and Paul Motian, independent thinkers who wrote melodies other folks might play, like Muhal's waltz "Two Over One."

(SOUNDBITE OF TYSHAWN SOREY TRIO'S "TWO OVER ONE")

WHITEHEAD: Tyshawn Sorey's album "Mesmerism" celebrates the everyday miracle of the jazz rhythm trio. Each player addresses the beat in a swervy (ph), spontaneous way without constant chaos. A casual romp like this session makes for breezy listening, but it's also a practical way for a composer to recharge his musical imagination before sitting down at a blank sheet of staff paper to plot his next move.

(SOUNDBITE OF TYSHAWN SOREY TRIO'S "DETOUR AHEAD")

GROSS: Kevin Whitehead is the author of the book "Play The Way You Feel: The Essential Guide To Jazz Stories On Film." He reviewed "Mesmerism" by Tyshawn Sorey. After we take a short break, Maureen Corrigan will review a new novel about work, love and video games. This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF MICHAEL BISIO QUARTET'S "A.M.")

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