Thomas Marriott has released his ninth album as a leader with the October 21, 2014 Origin Records release of Urban Folklore
. He has joined with one of the most expressive and talented trios around in the persons of Orrin Evans on piano, Eric Revis on bass and Donald Edwards on drums. They are deliberate and delicate and thoroughly brilliant. In fact, they have appeared separately and together on many of the finest recordings of the last two years.
Marriott weaves tales of life with the trio serving as the Greek Chorus to Marriott's own narrative in this expansive and enlightening drama. As Marriott states in the liner notes, the center of the music is the listener who shares in the stories common to all of humanity.
The album opens with "Apophis," a piece written about danger and inaction (and the danger of inaction). It has sizzling moments, with some snatches reminiscent of Bill Chase. The trio knocks in some fine work as they continue to do throughout the album, supporting and setting up Marriott's own fine work.
Orrin Evans is an intuitive supporter and propeller of the music. Evans is the anchor and he plays the part well. Eric Rivas is incredibly subtle and nuanced in his bass approach. Donald Edwards has become one of my very favorite drummers. He can play straight-up Jazz or he can fabricate modern drumming textures that are eye-popping. He never disappoints.
"Tales of Debauchery" is about how each of us go too far on occasion. There is an intentional unsteadiness to the gait that paints the image well. With all of that, however, Marriott does create a cool groove that is both seductively and intoxicatingly...debauching.
"Room 547" is a great spot for Eric Rivas' underpinning of Marriott's lush tonality. The titles suggests a birthing-room in a hospital and Marriott employs majestic tones that make this discussion of life and birth a triumph.
From "Moe-Joe" and its portrayal of mentors to "What Emptiness Can Do," there is a universal appeal to our shared experiences of lessons learned and lost. Marriott is lyrical and exquisite in his approach.
"Locked Up" and "Living on the Minimum" are coolly-paced songs with melancholic sentiments of jail and poverty and their crush on creativity. Again, Marriott cooks the pieces to perfection and his Greek Chorus flavors and expounds on the story.
"Living on the Minimum" is one of Edwards' finest tracks on the album which carries well into "I'm Vibing You" wherein the group turns mildly malicious in their confrontational playing.
"Washington Generals" focuses on the talented but hopeless team who has to play the Harlem Globetrotters night after night. It is a flowing piece that revels in the freedom of having nothing to lose and nothing to prove. It is a soliloquy on the false dichotomy of winning or losing. It is hopeful and sincere and ends with a chuckle. Urban Folklore
is itself hopeful and sincere. In humanity's shared tales, there is also shared hope. Thomas Marriott becomes a preacher of the possible--affirming life and the narrative we ourselves share. He does it with his own voice and humor and with a fine cast of characters.