Affinity Trio, Hindsight Review
Rhythm Without Drums: Affinity Trio’s Hindsight Unfolds an Intimate, Panoramic Jazz Landscape
By Icrom Bigrad
Trios are intimate, and magic will happen when you have one that is as in tune as the Affinity Trio. So, with that in mind, I invite you to sit back and pour yourself something sophisticated as we delve into the sonic tapestry of Affinity Trio’s debut album Hindsight, released on October 20, 2023, under the illustrious Origin Records. The air is thick with anticipation and curiosity as we unspool an album born from the depths of a pandemic and nurtured in the warm cradle of a historic jazz venue, the Mason Street Grill in Milwaukee.
When Pamela York, Eric Jacobson, and Clay Schaub joined hands to form the Affinity Trio, they eschewed the percussive heartbeat usually pulsating through jazz groups. York, the group’s pianistic core, elucidates that their drum-less lineup allows for an intimacy akin to a private dinner where every spice and flavor becomes noticeable. This ensemble capitalizes on a collective rhythmic intuition, infusing their musical choices with nuanced layers we shall uncover in this review.
Starting the soiree is “Open Windows,” composed by trumpeter Eric Jacobson. The moment Jacobson blows his first note, we are already swept into an autumnal embrace. His horn sings with a molten-gold tone, harmonizing exquisitely with Schaub’s rich, woody bassline. The track becomes a canvas for York’s artistry, a bouquet of harmonies and sophisticated arpeggios. If one were to liken this track to a dish, it’s a pan-seared steak, seasoned to perfection, allowing each musician to shine without overshadowing the others.
Clay Schaub’s “Fitzroy” ushers us into a rhythmically playful domain that evokes the spirit of a well-executed tapenade—contrasting elements balancing to elevate the ensemble. Jacobson’s carefully built phrases crescendo like an exquisite wine reaching its peak maturity. The absence of drums allows Schaub and York to be in an intimate conversation, laying the foundation for Jacobson’s climaxing solos.
The third number, “Tin Tin Deo,” is a Latin jazz classic that transforms into an Afro-Cuban extravaganza. York and Schaub craft a salsa-infused rhythm that speaks to the resilient heart of jazz. Like a finely spiced paella, the track offers a blend of smokiness and zest, epitomized in the spiraling arpeggios of York and Jacobson’s mellifluous trumpet lines.
“Blues for Change” arrives like a warm bowl of gumbo, filled with emotional heft, epitomized by York’s rhythmic backbeat. York digs deep into the backbeat as she delivers a motif-driven solo with cool jazz and post-bop elements. Jacobson’s solo brings that honeyed tone trumpet through the flavors of an expressive, tasty solo. Schaub’s bass solo is melodic, keeping time clear and moving forward.
The album’s middle section holds its own: from the grace of “Theme for Ernie” to the up-tempo pace of “The End of a Love Affair,” each piece is a separate course in this banquet of sound. If “Theme for Ernie” is a velvet-clad crème brûlée, then “The End of a Love Affair” is a shot of espresso—sharp, intense, and instantly invigorating.
And so, we reach the album’s final two courses—York’s impressionistic “Parisian Poet,” followed by the brisk journey through Charlie Parker’s “Segment.” The former feels like a loving spoonful of a chocolate soufflé, rising through the oven of York’s harmonic brilliance, while the latter sends us off with a splash of aged bourbon, rich and complex but smooth to the end.
In conclusion, Hindsight is a full-bodied jazz experience that demands repeated indulgence, much like a lavish multi-course meal that reveals new flavors with each visit. Despite the absence of drums, Affinity Trio demonstrates that rhythm can be clearly conveyed from harmonies, melody, and the ceaseless creativity of each player, expressing the unified pulse.
Their music serves as a gourmet tasting menu of sorts—each track an individual sampling, yet transcendent when enjoyed in concert. And just as a master chef orchestrates a symphony of flavors, each member of the Affinity Trio contributes their unique sonic seasoning to this lavish auditory banquet. The resulting blend of musical ingredients creates a feast for the ears, grounded in an affinity as resonant as the marriage between a vintage wine and a finely-aged cheese. Hindsight, a blend of emotional depth and technical virtuosity, is both an introduction and a tantalizing preview of the Affinity Trio’s promising future—inviting us to eagerly anticipate the many rich and varied courses yet to be served in the world of jazz.