Review by Nathan Emerson
Black Licorice is an album by Steel Jazz Trio + Friends, that may be an acquired taste, but is exactly where I want to live. I admittedly don’t understand jazz (which is why I love it) but this album is digestible. In fact, often I can comprehend a part of the composition and follow along while the leads take turns dancing around and outside the box of my realm. These cats seem down to earth and there is nothing pretentious for us outside the jazz world to be offended by. Most songs are around 3 minutes or shorter. There are a few longer cuts, but the overall feel is simplicity SOAKED in creativity to make their art. Pedal Steel Guitarist Brian Dumont lays it all out, even the album’s centerfold reveals the unique and self-created covenant to his tuning. Ten tracks in is “Harmonious Punk” and finally, the playing starts to get a little weird yet stays classy. The entire album teases at chaos and near the end goes full out into another dimension while staying grounded on Earth.
Keyboards and sax by Tyler Odell pulse and breathe often soothing the insanity that comes into life. Brandon Nichol compliments the steel with classic sounding jazz licks and experiments with his own taste that truly pushes this album beyond noodling and melody. Brandon adds color by exploring his instrument just as much as Brian does his pedal steel. Bass by Jared Burnett simmers and leaves an aroma so tasteful and composed that it could not be compared to raw anise. A real treat to this album is Anthony Bryan on drums sticking true to several jazz influences and creating depth upon fourteen different tracks. The collection of songs on Black Licorice builds curiosity that loosens up from calculated to free-form Avante and back again to smooth soul. The arch of the songs explores jazz in a way to ease you into their world. This is an album, and the really fun stuff is hidden in the back -but more appear after the second listen!
Watch Steel Guitar Jazz Trio on their YouTube or catch them live across New York. The cats are onto something! PREORDER HERE!
“Nathan M. Emerson is an artist, pedal steel guitarist, writer, and film director. He enjoys watercolor painting as a meditation and taking naps while listening to jazz at max volume. As a musician himself, Emerson received rare access to conduct interviews with musicians who loathe the press such as Will Oldham aka Bonnie “Prince” Billy. Emerson used his passions and synergies to start work on his film “That Thing | THAT SOUND” as part of his dedication to proving the pedal steel guitar is an instrument and not a genre. Continuing to record sessions across multiple genres, Emerson takes his craft seriously while getting excited to push boundaries and get weird. Emerson always has several projects in the works and loves going back to his roots of writing.”