Monday, October 08, 2018

Brian Marsella Trio - Outspoken: The Music of the Legendary Hasaan (Tzadik, 2018)

Hasaan Ibn Ali was born in Philadelphia in 1931, and became a legend on that scene, playing with all the post bop era stars as they came through town. His style was unique and uncompromising, and that combined with a prickly personality, led to few recording opportunities save The Max Roach Trio Featuring the Legendary Hasaan on Atlantic. This album was recorded by a very talented trio of Brian Marsella on piano, Anwar Marshall on drums, and Christian McBride on bass, all of whom have deep with that city and its musical legacy. "Three-Four vs Six-Eight Four-Four Ways" opens the album with thick propulsive bass and nimble drums supporting the exploratory nature of the piano, played with speed and power, crashing chords and delightfully fast notes. The music has wonderful shades of light and darkness, never tipping its hand and the trio plays it in a manner that is full of surprises, with bass and percussion sections as well. There is a bright and buoyant feeling to "Per Aspera Ad Astra" which has some sparkling piano playing and deft bass solo giving the overall sound a pulsing and emotional lifeline, while the drummer and the pianist trade agile phrases. "Pay Not Play Not" explodes to life with a madcap energy of towering piano, which wouldn't be out of place supporting a silent film, but for the complexity of the music, and the abrupt shifts in tempo and tone. The three musicians are more that up to the task, enjoying the possibilities the composition offers. The bouncing and percussive "Almost Like Me" is very appealing in the speed and fluctuation that the musicians bring to the forefront. It's a wonder these songs aren't more widely played, because they are fascinating to hear, especially given the intuitive interplay this trio brings to the music. "Off My Back" begins as a solo piano feature for Marsella, and he makes the most of it, performing the tricking sounding composition in an appealing and accessible manner, adding aspects of breakneck stride and riveting bebop for good measure, before the bass and drums enter to add further asides and flourishes. There is a dramatic aura to "Din-Ka Street," a track that develops episodically over eight minutes, bouncing into a breezy uptempo section with excellent bass and drum features. This album succeeded grandly as a piece of work highlighting the skill and tenacity of the musicians involved, but also in piquing interest in Hasaan Ibn Ali as a composer, and it is deserving of high praise on both accounts. Outspoken - The Music Of The Legendary Hasaan -

Send comments to Tim.