Friday, February 21, 2014


Hot Cup Records announces the April 8, 2014 release of Wide Eyed, the sophomore album by the NYC-based Danny Fox Trio. Since their critically acclaimed 2011 debut, The One Constant (Songlines), the group has continued to push the boundaries of the classic piano trio format.  Wide Eyed ups the ante in the band's quest to create uniquely personal, genre-defying original music.  Falling somewhere between jazz and chamber music, the album's eleven pieces are replete with sonic surprises: quirky rhythms, jaunty yet catchy melodies, haunting harmonies, and out-of-the-box arrangements that showcase the capabilities of each member of the group, all while maintaining tuneful melodies.

Formed in 2008, the Danny Fox Trio, featuring pianist Danny Fox, bassist Chris van Voorst van Beest, and drummer Max Goldman, is a true working band.  Whether holed up in a Queens basement rehearsing or touring around the country crammed into a sedan, the trio has spent countless hours developing a rapport that's immediately palpable in their music. This chemistry not only contributes to the precision of their performances, but allows each member to feel confident enough to take musical risks. This contrast between cohesive, cogent ensemble execution and the excitement of spontaneous improvisation adds an energy that is sorely lacking in much of today's music, regardless of genre.

Though rooted in jazz, the three versatile musicians are also active in chamber music, bluegrass, afrobeat, electro, and New Orleans funk, thereby giving the band a sound that is all-encompassing yet strikingly individual.  Drawing on influences as varied as Ellington, Bartok, The Meters, and Bernard Herrmann, the music can switch gears at any moment yet remains cohesive thanks to strong motivic development and rigorous arrangements that challenge the traditional roles of the piano trio instruments. Having committed these intricate and challenging compositions to memory and performed them scores of times, the influence and esthetic of rock bands is readily appreciated.

The trio explores a wide range of novel techniques to eschew standard forms and roles. The piano, typically both the lead melodic and harmonic voice, rarely performs these two roles simultaneously.  Instead, Fox opts for textures that feature the abilities of his band mates and explore the more extreme ranges of the piano.  In addition to fulfilling the traditional role as rhythmic anchor, bassist Chris van Voorst van Beest provides melodies, counterpoint, and coloristic arco effects adeptly. Drummer Max Goldman employs traditional drumbeats effectively, but often opts for a more orchestral approach, mimicking symphonic playing.  The compositions themselves feature extensive melodic and motivic development, sometimes hovering around a theme that is only a few notes long, and sometimes building phrases over time to great emotional heights.

The eleven pieces on Wide Eyed navigate through a vast array of grooves, harmonies, time signatures, tempo shifts, free improvisations, and dynamics while always remaining grounded in the thematic material, giving the music a seamlessness and cohesion such that it is both challenging and highly listenable.

The album opens with the insistent bass groove of Sterling, which the trio unfolds in unexpected ways: from the slippery, danceable odd meter rhythm of the opening melody to the introspective rubato bass melody and jagged drum punctuations that follow.  The song exemplifies the motivic style of composition as the opening six-note theme is modified through new harmonies, tempi, and instrumentation to spin out sections of varied moods.  This theme is sometimes front and center and other times lurking, as when the left hand of the piano plays a fast version of it under dense minor chords.  Bonkers, written by Fox while going mad from practicing music for a circus, is a meeting of Prokofiev-like melody, African rhythm, and free improvisation.  

All Tolled, an epic piece spun out of a pencil accidentally tapping a rhythm on a desk, shows the trio's range from ferocious bombast to tender lullaby and spotlights the group's creative use of their instruments, as in the introduction where the piano plays on the extreme high and low registers as a background for the bass melody. Throughout, Goldman displays his well-rounded approach to the drum kit, sometimes laying down specific beats and other times mimicking orchestral percussion.  The bluegrass-inspired Drone shows the trio's playful side and the influence of Fox's second instrument: banjo. 

The subdued title track Wide Eyed opens with a moody cinematic simmer before piano/bass counterpoint explores rich harmonic dissonances. Confederates is a sinister march with ecstatic jolts, followed by Short Al in Brooklyn, a deceivingly tricky rhythmic proposition disguised as a light-hearted swinger, written for a famous NYC sports talk radio caller.  Patriot Daze and Punches show Fox's heavy classical influence, using both hands to equal effect, and the trio's adept use of dynamics.  Funhouse Memory filters funk through a funhouse mirror with off-kilter rhythms and spooky chords.  The wildly-phrased canon seems to come out of nowhere but derives simply from the first theme stated in the piece.  The album closes with the chamber-like Tumble Quiet, written against the backdrop of a faint clothes dryer in a quiet house, which floats from ethereal chords toward thumping tribal grooves before reaching a plaintive calm.  The bass moves seamlessly between contrapuntal melodies and earthy bassline ostinatos.

Wide Eyed is about inhabiting a state of wonder and surprise about the world around us.  It's about searching for possibility and embracing new ideas all while taking inspiration from what you've already taken in.

Pianist Danny Fox was born in New York City where he became immersed in the jazz scene from an early age.  In high school, Danny was selected as a Presidential Scholar in the Arts and went on to attend Harvard University during which time he became active in the Boston music scene.  Upon moving back to New York, Danny began intensive classical studies with concert pianist John Kamitsuka.  He formed the Danny Fox Trio in 2008 as a vehicle for his original compositions and since then the working group has performed steadily around NYC and the US, releasing the critically acclaimed debut The One Constant (Songlines) in 2011.  Called a "pianist of diverse accomplishment" (NY Times), Danny has established himself as a versatile musician active in a wide variety of settings from chamber groups and pit orchestras to big bands, dance troupes, and choirs.  He performs with bassist Kermit Driscoll and multireedist Sam Sadigursky, and recently co-founded a New Orleans repertory band with drummer Dan Rieser.  Fox is also in the vanguard of the burgeoning Queens creative music scene, performing frequently in concerts and festivals organized by the Queens Jazz Overground. 

Born in Pownal, Maine, bassist Chris van Voorst van Beest has been an in-demand presence on the New York music scene since moving to Brooklyn in 2005.  He has performed with such noted jazz artists as Kurt Rosenwinkel, Joe Lovano, Chris Potter, and Rudy Linka, with whom he recently toured the Czech Republic.  Versatile in a variety of musical settings, he performs and records with numerous rock, afrobeat, and folk/bluegrass projects, as well as Off-Broadway productions, including the acclaimed interactive theatre show "Sleep No More." Chris is also involved in the burgeoning NYC contemporary classical scene, through which he has worked with artists such as Gabriel Kahane and Rob Moose.  In addition to his busy schedule as a bassist, Chris is active as a composer: He recently completed his Master's degree in Composition from City College, where he studied with Pulitzer-Prize winning composer David Del Tredici, and is developing a diverse repertoire of compositions for chamber ensembles of various sizes and instrumentation. In 2009 Chris was awarded a grant to compose the original score for the children's book "The Lamplighter," featuring narration by noted folk artist Sam Amidon.

Born in Rochester, NY, drummer Max Goldman was fortunate to study under local greats Jeff Lewis, Steve Curry and Rich Thompson.  He moved to New York City in 2001, attending NYU and the New School, where he studied with Tony Moreno, Gerald Cleaver and Kenny Washington.  Since graduating in 2006, Max has been an active musician based in Brooklyn's fertile creative scene. He spends much of his time touring Europe, South America, the US, and Canada with a diverse lineup of artists.  In addition to the Danny Fox Trio, Max has performed and recorded with Becca Stevens, Tim Berne, The Elan Mehler Group, Old Time Musketry, Midnight Magic, Nomi Ruiz, and Eleanor Friedberger.   He has been called "a seriously propulsive force" by the Chicago Reader, and his drumming has been described as "beautifully melodic, even pianistic" by the New York Jazz Review.

John Schaefer of WNYC's New Sounds says the Danny Fox Trio is "changing the sound and expectation of a jazz piano trio."  And Peter Margasak writes in the Chicago Reader: "The group certainly doesn't operate like a typical jazz piano trioŠFox's original compositions are episodic, rigorously arranged, and generally eschew the usual song forms employed in mainstream jazz."

CD Release Tour:
o Wed. April 30 - Cliff Bell's, Detroit, MI
o Thurs. May 1 - Merriman's Playhouse, South Bend, IN
o Fri. May 2 - Constellation, Chicago, IL
o Sat. May 3 - Jazz Estate, Milwaukee, WI
o Sun. May 4, House Concert - Music on a Mission, Lorain, OH
o Wed. May 7th -Boxer's, Huntingdon, PA
o Fri. May 9- Subculture, NYC
o Sun. May 18th- Bop Shop, Rochester, NY

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