La Scena Musicale
Without a doubt one of the most stunning moments from this edition of the OFF Jazz Festival, the Daniel Arthur Trio offered a performance of high caliber which gave a glimpse of a promising future for the young band. Accompanied by a rhythm section composed of bassist Ethan Cohn and drummer Eric Maillet, the young pianist took advantage of the occasion to present pieces from their latest album 'Vivid', released on July 7.
Drawing his inspiration from diverse musical genres, including contemporary jazz and classical music, Arthur demonstrates that he has completely assimilated the influences of the masters of these genres while delivering well-crafted compositions which did not at all suppress the spontaneity of the soloists. The improvised parts connected perfectly with the written music, attesting to the high degree of chemistry between the musicians. It is important to note the progressive character of the improvisations, which present long developments of motifs which remind one of Keith Jarrett all while demonstrating an acute sense of musical narrative. The listener is also perpetually holding their breath throughout the pieces which progressively culminate towards exultant peaks...
The Ottawa Citizen
Clearly as a composer and a player, Arthur, a Seattle native who attended McGill University’s jazz program, has a clear sense of the musical road he’s chosen to walk and is unafraid of exploring extremes beyond the well-beaten path of jazz standards and the rhythmic, harmonic and melodic precedents.
You can hear some nods to contemporary jazz heroes — I’m thinking of Vijay Iyer, Jean-Michel Pilc (who taught Arthur at McGill), and Ethan Iverson with the Bad Plus. Also, classical influences have rubbed off on Arthur to the extent that there are tunes called Shostakovich and Messaien on his album. Rather than ape his inspirations, however, Arthur uses some of their musical contributions as launch pads for music that inevitably wends into the pounding territory that he favours.
Juliana van Amsterdam
CKUT 90.3 FM
La Villa Strangiato
As the title of their debut full-length album would suggest, the music that flows from the Daniel Arthur Trio can only be described as vivid. Vibrant. Vivacious. I could go on. The fact of the matter is, it would be impossible to mistake these recent Schulich Music School graduates for sophomoric amateurs, not to mention their expanding resumé. In 2016, while still at McGill University, the trio performed at the internationally-renowned Montreal Jazz Festival, and this year have taken third place at the Conad Jazz Fest (Perugia) and a semifinalist title at the Bucharest International Jazz Competition. Daniel Arthur, a pianist by trade and the trio’s “frontman,” was performing with the Seattle Opera while still in high school, and has played classical piano since the age of seven.
All arrangements on Vivid are of his own composition, and it’s clear from the get-go that he has an ear for the ebb and flow of the tracks. The album moves as a river might: at times still and quiet, at others roaring along, almost unhinged. Arthur’s piano may wander, but it is always brought back by Ethan Cohn’s steady bass and Eric Maillet’s clever drums. The trio members have all been formally trained as musicians, and it shines in their performances; everything is precise, even when the intricate harmonies present as hectic or loose.
The three instruments will expertly play games of tag and tug-of-war, yielding for solos and dramatic effect, but not once do they fall completely silent. When one instrument shines, the other two provide a support system to buoy it along. Their style evokes 20th century composers such as Stravinsky and Messiaen, as well as contemporary jazz musicians; a hint of Brubeck can be heard from time to time as well.
Vivid begins with “Prelude,” a kind of amuse-bouche that does a good job of introducing the trio’s sound, letting them stretch their musical muscles. Arthur demonstrates his penchant for syncopation and time signature shifts early on in this short track, which features a hypnotic piano melody. On “DSFCA,” a frantic piano shoots out of the gate before the drums and bass kick in to send the track into a frenzy. Constantly shifting intervals, dynamics, and tempo keep the listener on their toes before the track cools down, the dynamics becoming subdued and steady rhythms taking hold.
Rolling chords introduce “Joy,” blossoming nicely with the addition of the bass being played with a bow, instead of Cohn’s usual plucking style. Maillet’s drums are added slowly, entering the flow of the rhythm seamlessly to provide a nice contrast with Cohn’s bass. Arthur’s piano then takes over, with the bass and drums now only acting as accents. While the melodies are rather repetitive, the differences in tempo and call-and-response pattern that emerges keep the track pleasant and the listener engaged. Arthur arranges the track to fall into dissonance before inserting a neat, circular resolution: the return of the initial piano melody, now a little more harried.
On “Mars Text,” bass and a higher piano melody take the spotlight, supplemented by drums and a faster piano melody, played at a lower register. The track has a bittersweet quality to it, with each instrument alternately fading in and out, each in its own world. As the track picks up, the melodies of piano, bass, and drum become intertwined, building on one another; this cyclical track is one of Arthur’s most involved compositions, and the trio perform it expertly.
The Daniel Arthur Trio also cover the greats on Vivid, paying homage to Shostakovich and Messiaen in additional tracks. While their overall performance style still has an air of youthful formality, the raw talent exhibited by these musicians cannot be denied, and this author can only hope they will continue to showcase their prowess as they carve a name for themselves in the jazz world.
The Daniel Arthur Trio rolled into town in early December to play two convincing, entertaining sets before a small but appreciative audience at Pressed, Ottawa's premiere gourmet sandwich shop with a performance space. This Montreal-based jazz trio, which consists of pianist and Seattle native Daniel Arthur, bassist Ethan Cohn of New York, and Moncton-born Eric Maillet on drums, has already made a splash during its two years of existence with an impressive slate of recordings and an appearance at last year's Montreal International Jazz Festival. There's also the dynamic compositions, masterful arrangements and bold stage presence that belies the fact these guys are likely not a day over 25. As it turns out, all three are students at McGill University's jazz program who have all studied with maestro John Hollenbeck, the drummer of the famed Claudia Quintet and new professor at the university. The trio must be paying attention in class because what they delivered on stage that night at Pressed was confidently executed, veering eagerly between light-hearted playfulness and full-on, baby grand-smashing intensity. If you love jazz that pushes the envelope, keep an ear to the ground and an eye out new material—the best is no doubt yet to come from this promising young trio. Next time they're in town, you know you want to be there.