Forget about “the art of the trio.” It’s undoubtedly a topic worth discussing when you look at this album, and one that automatically comes up when you look at any piano-centric threesome, but it’s a phrase that’s been overused. Instead, let’s talk about the heart of the trio—how it beats, what it feeds, where it leads, and the manner in which it expands (and contracts) to forward life and development. That’s a topic that’s more apropos here, as pianist Jarrett Cherner radiates beauty while developing and sustaining his own stunning sonic circulatory system.
Expanding Heart finds Cherner waxing and waning on a musical-emotional front. There are pensive thoughts, bleak atmospheres, and gleeful romps to be heard, as moods veer and volley in different direction. No single train of thought or style dominates, but an overarching feeling of thoughtfulness permeates each and every performance.
Cherner is remarkably good at balancing sensitivity with dynamism, and bassistJorge Roeder and drummer Jason Burger—the core rhythm section, appearing on eight of these eleven tracks—are right there with him, using light, shadows, darkness, and various gradations of color to shape these performances. Some of the covers bear that out as much as anything. That trio’s investigation of Ornette Coleman‘s “What Reason Could I Give,” for example, results in a mystic slow boil where spiritual sounds are seasoned with hints of South African sunshine. It’s a churning delight that’s as mysterious as it is beautiful. In completely different veins we have Otis Redding’s “I Got The Will,” a number that’s packaged in a simple and soulful state; Coleman’s “Turnaround,” which adds a dose of bluesy joy to the mix; and Vincent Rose’s “Whispering,” which does far more than the title suggests, growing from gentle expressions into a grooving odd-metered thrill ride that showcases the simpatico connections between Cherner, bassist Haggai Cohen Milo, and drummer Richie Barshay. That trio only appears twice on the album, but it remains a memorable group.
While those aforementioned songs glance outward in terms of influence, the rest of this music was born inside of Cherner. Extraordinarily attractive originals make up the bulk of the album, pointing to the composer’s own ever-expanding heart. “Hoppe” has the feel of a comforting hymn, peaceful and purposeful as it goes; “Distance” makes the heart grow fonder and beat faster, as uncertainty looms in the air; and the three “Meditation” tracks seem to travel on wistful wings, pointing toward regret and hope in equal measures. It’s all part of the complex picture that is Jarrett Cherner. And in the end, it’s that picture, along with an easy musical handshake between reverie and resilience, that makes this album a pleasure to behold.