Rob Duguay’s jazz trio Songevity plays the truly original music on Safe In Sound as if chasing the notes from some lofty state above the crowd, a trapeze act tumbling without a net.
The seven tracks hover in space, deliciously, delightfully, larger than life.
Toronto-born, New York-based bassist/songwriter Duguay, Maryland-born, Virginia pianist Justin Kauflin, and Israeli drummer Nadav Snir-Zelniker pick and choose their sonic escapes like finely honed masters of their craft. It’s what post-bop and free jazz should be when all the players are on the same page, honing in on something akin to purging pent-up insides.
The trio of young, highly innovative musicians has grown up surrounded and enriched by music education of the highest order, from strong high school programs to the top of the heap in respected universities.
Classically trained on the piano starting at the tender age of six, Duguay got into jazz seriously in high school, adding bass and percussion to his repertoire. He studied under and performed here and abroad with a great many informative legends, including Clark Terry, Marcus McLaurine, Mulgrew Miller, and Harold Mabern. He’s also done tremendous work for the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in D.C., even going so far as to represent the Smithsonian at the 2007 International Association of Jazz Education Conference.
Another classically trained piano player from the very start, Kauflin also learned and performed on violin since the age of six. But by 11, he was struck with blindness from Coats’ disease, or exudative retinopathy, which led him to focus entirely on piano while at the Governor’s School for Performing Arts. The Governor’s School for Performing Arts became the William Paterson University in N.J., where the Valedictorian learned even more from the late bebop trumpeter Clark Terry, and even performed with the Clark Terry Ensemble.
Kauflin would also appear in and score — with Dave Grusin — the award-winning Tribeca Film Festival favorite, “Keep On Keepin’ On,” a 2014 documentary about his time with Terry.
Grammy-winning producer Quincy Jones discovered VEER Magazine’s “Jazz Artist of the Year,” whisking him to Montreux, France, and parts of Asia on a world tour in 2013-2014, and helping him with the debut, 2015 recording, Dedication on the Qwest/Jazz Village label.
Israeli-born drummer Nadav Snir-Zelniker completes the triangle with his own jazz/rock power. Armed with more than enough honorary scholarships, Snir-Zelniker headed to America in 1999 to stay and finish studies in music performance at the Conservatory of Music at Suny-Purchase College. Since settling in New York, the drummer has crossed paths with a number of top-drawer acts, including trumpet player, Jon Faddis.
The Songevity musicians’ love of all styles of music, namely classical, rock, and jazz, is all over their own modern inventions.
There may only be seven tracks on the June 17 release, but every one speaks volumes. Track five, “Afrikan Morning Dove,” gives each musician time and space to mark infinite, groundless territory. Drummer Snir-Zelniker does more on his driving solo than mark time; his is an unctuous stanza of rolls and snaps tethered to the promise of fulfillment, enabled on Duguay’s melodic bass cues.
Again, as on the other tracks penned by Duguay, pianist Kauflin goes to town all over the instrumental, stating his piece with an authority and an unmistakable, almost defiant touch. This pianist plays his spaces as if he hasn’t a care in the world, with an expansive, daredevil charisma between the avant-post-bop and classical worlds.
The finish on “Afrikan Morning Dove” is neither stylistically referential (you’d expect something on an Afro-Cuban scale) or subliminally limiting.
With Duguay and Snir-Zelniker mostly holding down the fort — inventively, Kauflin translates the beautiful melodies and elusive harmonies with breathtaking abandon. “On A Sighed Note” lives in his literal, graceful interpretation. Stirring the waters with a bow and arrow of bass and percussive drops toward the end? Nice touch.
Songevity’s Safe In Sound is an original jazz album unlike any other. The trio combines what they learned and know of technique with the performance of personalities melding into one cohesive unit. It’s the difference between stacking notes and building a fortress of in-depth feel.
They tackle the difference one accomplished song after the other.
Songevity next plays together in New York’s Boom Boom Room at the Top of the Standard 7 p.m.-10 p.m. July 23 in the West Village.