The theme this week, if you haven’t noticed, is small jazz ensembles with members who have been performing with each other for years. Pianist Joe Davidian, bassist Jamie Ousley and drummer Austin McMahon have been together for twenty years, playing as the Joe Davidian Trio. This is their first album with their new name, The Lost Melody, a step taken to show how this piano trio has evolved over the last few years. What’s even more interesting is the title of their new album, New Songs for Old Souls.
During the first listen, I assumed The Lost Melody was comprised of three young men tackling selections from the Great American Songbook, and for the most part I thought that was an excellent idea that really paid off. On closer inspection, however, I discovered that these ten tracks are original compositions made to sound like old standards, and that’s even more impressive. (It’s also something that would be difficult for journeymen to pull off.) It also helps that each of these three musicians has also played the role of bandleader, so there’s an undeniable wisdom at work in these arrangements.
Despite the new moniker, however, The Lost Melody is centered around Joe Davidian’s piano. It’s the first thing you hear, the first thing you feel, and his style is remarkable for its wide tonal range. New Songs for Old Souls is made up of beautiful melodies and strong themes, yet Davidian’s piano stands out for being plush and full and for carrying much of the energy. The rhythm section doesn’t exactly blend into the scenery–both Ousley and McMahon are dynamic and sure-footed and they really know how to evoke the performances of the legends. Much of sound of The Lost Melody reminds me of a Bill Evans trio–you can’t help but notice what Evans is doing on the keyboard, but he only shared a stage with the best.
I’m still not sure why these jazz releases come in waves that reflect certain sub-genres–Brazilian jazz, big band, organ trios, etc.–but I’m always up for a brilliant piano trio recording because those three instruments can fill out a landscape like few others. The Lost Melody is absolutely convincing when it comes to the novel idea of inventing and performing lost classics–it takes a lot of intelligence and experience to pull something like this off.