MP3 PD3 - Street Scene
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10 MP3 Songs
JAZZ: Jazz Fusion, JAZZ: World Fusion
"Tone, nuance and balance are their strong points. Pete Downes plays guitar, both electric and acoustic, with a distinctively bright and crystalline sound, while bassist Andy Coe and drummer Tim Bruce match him to perfection."
Isn't it gratifying to come across a CD that surprises you? You look at the line-up and have certain expectations and then you find them, partially at least, up-ended. Such was the case with this recording by a trio I haven't heard of before. Together they have put together a set of self-composed tunes that explore notions of what a jazz guitar trio might be about whilst allowing their inclinations to wander further.
From 'Kind Of Blue' Miles in the shape of 'New Bop' they travel through some rockier territory on '9 + 7' where Downes' guitar shifts from clipped mellow chords to a ringing, wailing solo. Preceded by some solid bass he unleashes lines that cut through sharp and clear, raising the energy levels. I was reminded a little of Metheny around the time of 'American Garage' but Downes wears his influences lightly and whatever he's absorbed has been merged into a style that boasts a certain individuality.
His playing isn't confined to the electric guitar either. On 'Gabrielle' he picks the acoustic in restrained, semi-classical mode, once again with clarity and poise. But the most memorable contribution here is from the acoustic bass as Coe brings the bow to bear on the closing section. He holds a dark note against Downes' filigree picking then takes a solo that combines a lightness of touch with resonant melancholy. Quite breath-taking and a model of succinctness.
Coe also offers one of his own compositions, 'Alison' which features more acoustic guitar, rippling and crisply chordal, while the bass bends and slides subtly behind it. This isn't, strictly speaking, jazz guitar territory but it is evident that these three enjoy mixing the genres a little.
There is still plenty of fluent fretwork for anyone wanting to hear some incisive, uncluttered improvisation. Listen to 'Walking On Air', for instance, which includes some decidedly funky guitar and drum dialogue, though not in a showy way. Just listen and it's there, happening in the most unassuming way, integrated into the overall sound. You'll find it too on the title track when Downes' mellow tone is delicately underscored by Bruce's cymbal work. This piece is additional evidence of the guitarist's harsher leanings as he crashes out a few power chords and beefs up the sustain on a truly exciting solo excursion. Then on the final track, the aptly named 'Joy', the up-beat tempo further foregrounds the interplay between Downes and Bruce; the bright theme and improvisations are propelled by some superb percussion.
The majority of the tracks were recorded live in single takes, the only exceptions being 'New Bop' and 'Walking On Air'. There are a few overdubs too using acoustic guitar and a bit of synth, for example but, whatever the method, the sound is consistently excellent. I hope they visit a venue near me soon.
Reviewed by Paul Donnelly
"The diversity and restrained virtuosity of this trio make them a striking and unique addition to the new wave of top British jazz artists. The music is fresh and uncluttered, complicated yet subtle. One of my favourite guitar albums of the year."
Music Choice Europe
It is not often I find anything good to say about CDs which land on my desk. However this was not the case with a wonderful new CD Street Scene by PD3.
A contemporary guitar trio led by Downes on guitar, PD3 have produced Street Scene, an entirely instrumental album.
The opening track, New Bop, is reminiscent of the sort of music Ronnie Jordan was playing on his seminal album The Antidote.
Although there are similarities to other jazz guitarists the album still retains a highly original feel and credit must got to Andy Coe and Tim Bruce on bass and drums, the interplay between these two is sublime.
There are ten tracks on Street Scene and not one bad one among them
Review by Gareth Foreman
Kingston Guardian, November 2003
A review by Bob Bevan-Jones
This CD unquestionably contains a classy set of tunes from a confident and capable jazz trio; but the dimensions of the work are lost in such a simplistic statement. Anyone familiar with PD3's stage act will be aware of the band's ability to shine a carefully targeted light on revered standards as "Blue in Green" or "Moondance", enabling unexplored profiles to be seen, and producing shadows in unexpected places. The "Street Scene" CD is different: firstly, it contains no standards whatsoever - all selections are written by members of the band; and secondly, that ability to shine a carefully targeted light ironically persists. It is awesome to realise that a tune you may be hearing for the first time is being given such penetrating but loving treatment: it makes you feel you're in at the birth of something new and significant.
Pete Downes' guitar style is highly individual, and I wouldn't attempt to compare his skills with those of other guitarists; but I find it remarkable how widely he has drawn his influences without compromising a very personal approach to the instrument. The stylistic references are subtle, but detectable; and they don't necessarily come from fellow guitarists. I detected a nod in the direction of Miles Davis in his "Live Evil" phase, for instance (in "9+7"). And Jacques Loussier in the exquisite "Gabrielle". Pete's fluent guitar provides both the body and the embellishment of much of the trio's work. Typically, Pete starts a piece with an accessible melody line, and proceeds by small steps to something that bears no resemblance at all to the starting theme: take "Street Scene", for instance - a popular item in PD3's stage set, and one which frequently makes the audience look up in surprised pleasure.
Andy Coe's solid bass is the perfect foundation for Pete's flights of fancy. His mastery of light and dark tones plays a crucial role in pinpointing the mood of many of Pete's pieces. Andy can also come to the front when needed, without fully shutting down the engine room. There is a lovely piece of bowed bass towards the end of "Gabrielle", which needed a special touch, and got it. Andy contributed a tune of his own to this collection ("Alison"), and I hope on the strength of this evidence that he will spend more of his time of composition for future PD3 collections.
Tim Bruce comes from the Steve Gadd school of drumming: a talented master of many styles, but never one to threaten the fragile structure of a piece with an ill-considered ego trip. The more I hear of Tim, the better I like him. He holds down the beat but is never boring. He listens to what Pete and Andy are doing, and supports them while never losing his own direction. The perfect starting point for a successful band, in fact - so it seems I found it right at the end.
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