Eric Lilley Trio : Three Review
Eric Lilley Trio and Three: A Harmonious Journey of Evolution and Tribute
Pianist and composer, Eric Lilley’s career has gracefully unfurled in the lush jazz landscape, revealing a rich amalgamation of musical influences and experiences. With the release of his third album, Three, he continues to evolve, melding his past influences with his present musical ideations, resulting in a work that is both a nod to tradition and a step towards unexplored territory.
Shannon reviewed his multifaceted album Follow Up in 2021 (READ REVIEW), and now I have the pleasure of exploring Lilley’s Three. The bold trio—Lilley on piano, Mark Diamond on bass, and Tony Black on drums— focuses on interaction, listening, and shaping the music. The inclusion of percussionist Jose Espino on selected tracks further enriches the auditory experience. This latest offering bears testament to Lilley’s artistic journey, showcasing his growth and reverence for jazz’s transformative past while also elegantly embracing the future. With each player’s unique voice contributing to the harmonious ensemble, Three encapsulates not just the evolution of Lilley but also the continued progression of the timeless art form that is jazz.
The album bursts open with “Goats,” a rhythmically dynamic piece that combines swing and Latin, pushing and pulling with an irresistible dance-like allure. The addition of percussionist Jose Espino lends a vivacious touch to the energy of the composition, creating a rich dialogue between Latin percussive tones and the foundational trio.
“Jereices’ Step” pays homage to the creative genius of Scott LaFaro, oscillating between tempos, providing a canvas for the trio to paint their auditory story with varying brushes of half-time and a tempo sections. Meanwhile, “Kendras’ Waltz” evokes the spirit of Chick Corea, serving as a tangible testament to his lingering influence on Lilley and jazz as a whole.
Lilley’s solo piano work on “May Day” and “Any Day Now” is of special note. These pieces allow him the space to engage intimately with the instrument, invoking the spectral echoes of Bill Evans’ profound solo sound. The trio’s reverence for the masters continues with “Bill Evans,” a piece that subtly encapsulates shades of “Nardis” and “Fun Ride.”
“About Face,” a robust swinger, presents a section where Diamond and Black engage in a playful exchange of musical ideas; this conversation escalates to a stirring climax with a whimsical hint of Stevie Wonder in the ending. Meanwhile, “Few and Far Between” swings back to the Chick Corea vibe, demonstrating Lilley’s fluidity across styles and his adept ability to adapt and evolve within the jazz framework.
The album concludes with the mysterious “Visiting Hours.” This piece captures the ethereal beauty of creativity’s late-night visitations, leaving behind a hauntingly beautiful piece that lingers in the minds of listeners long after the final note has been struck.
The album comprises nine of Lilley’s compositions, with their intensely personal motifs and deeply felt emotions, each revealing his unique expertise as a composer. Originally conceived as a tribute to the inimitable Bill Evans, the album’s thematic scope broadened to encapsulate the expansive stylistic range left in the wake of Chick Corea’s passing in 2021. This evolution mirrors Lilley’s own musical journey, reflecting his transformation of personal influences and experiences into unique musical expressions.
The compositions are heartfelt narratives, promoting an intimate conversation between Lilley and his fellow musicians, articulated through the universal language of music. He pours his reverence for iconic pianists, his affection for family and friends, and his own lived experiences into every chord and melody. The result is a sincere and evocative tapestry of sounds, where each piece becomes a highly expressive vehicle for exploration for Lilley and his fellow musicians and the listener.
In conclusion, Eric Lilley’s Three is a vibrant demonstration of artistic evolution, a narrative told in the dialect of jazz, resounding with the echoes of his past, the resonance of his present, and the anticipation of his future. It is a deep dive into the heart of a gifted pianist and composer, a journey through a soundscape that remains eternally fresh yet familiar. As the notes fade and the story concludes, we are left not just with the satisfaction of a jazz album well enjoyed but with the anticipation of the continued evolution of an artist deeply entwined with the music he loves.
Eric Lilley Trio
October 12, 2022