TEETH-TANGLINGLY-TITLED jazz piano trio Eyeshutight (aka Eyes Shut Tight) release their third album, Resonance, with an enticing sound which encompasses dynamic dance beats and melodic serenity, all held together by a beguilingly off-the-wall but nonetheless intuitive approach.
Formed in Leeds in 2010 by bassist and composer Paul Baxter, with pianist Johnny Tomlinson and drummer Kristoffer Wright, they belong to a jazz generation which includes GoGo Penguin, Neil Cowley Trio, Mammal Hands and indisputed sovereigns e.s.t. (note that initialism). Exploring shifting rhythmic dimensions and effective electronic enhancement, Eyeshutight possess an upbeat group personality – with a few tricks up their sleeves – which becomes increasingly infectious as this nine-track offering proceeds.
Quickly putting aside a somewhat irritating opening 90-second, jumbled, spoken definition of the word Resonance (at least, it is after a few plays), the title track hits a great alternation of grooving and spaciousness, Johnny Tomlinson’s piano rocking out and electronically erupting in its wonderfully jarring riffs and irresistible neo-Cuban rhythms. Addict‘s chordal sequences curiously recall Joe Jackson’s Steppin’ Out, and Kristoffen Wright’s drum patterns are metronomically executed, despite the many challenging sudden turns – a chirpy, accessible reflection of a world hooked on electronic screens (and music which TV producers might well drool over!). The contrasting introspection of Transition treads a more traditional path, featuring Baxter’s cantabile bass soloing over lush piano clusters; and Theism, a charming miniature, was written to mark the birth of Baxter’s second daughter.
Under-pressure The Precipice spirals tangibly downwards before new life is breathed into it via Wright’s broadening pulsations. The breathless momentum is again, at times, punctuated by moments of calm lucidity – but for the most part, Tomlinson runs brilliantly with it in Rhodes-like hysteria and an almost ska-ish piano exuberance (there’s plenty going on in this – a real standout). A freer melancholic Intro precedes the gently-lilting simplicity of T&C, a warm, homely melody and improvisation which, with eloquent, almost African bass meanderings, pauses politely between its softly-beaten pulse.
Hit & Hope’s troubled progressions echo GoGo Penguin, yet there is also a brighter melodic side which then evolves into an unexpected hard-edged disco-style bass/piano riff. Another of the trio’s longer numbers, it has the space to open and develop, carrying bright solos from Tomlinson and Baxter. To close, Re:Sounds unfortunately invites back those extraneous voices (in reverse) – but they certainly can’t mar the strength of this album, especially when followed by…… shhh…… that would be telling……
It’s presently a pretty crowded stage out there for the piano trio format, requiring something rather special to succeed. And perhaps Eyeshutight‘s best is yet to come – to, as it were, open eyes wide. But this is a masterly and fresh outing, with its own distinct character, which should resonate and ‘hit the spot’ with a current, dance-invigorated jazz audience. Or, put another way – sharpianoutfitriumphsplendidly!
Released on 21 October on Hungry Bear Records, further information is available at the following websites (with tour dates listed below):
Johnny Tomlinson piano
Kristoffen Wright drums
Paul Baxter double bass
2014 UK tour dates
21 October: Parrjazz at Frederiks, Liverpool
22 October: Jazz Bar, Edinburgh
23 October: Blue Lamp, Aberdeen
24 October: Jazz Cafe, Newcastle
25 October: Zeferellis, Ambleside
29 October: Demspeys, Cardiff
30 October: SoundCellar @ The Blue Boar, Poole
04 November: Matt & Phreds, Manchester
05 November: Jazz at The Lescar, Sheffield
09 November: 7Arts, Leeds
14 November: Fleece Jazz, Sudbury
22 November: The Unitarian Chapel, York
23 November: The Forge, Camden, London
Hungry Bear Records – HBR001 (2014)