Eric Lilley Trio, Three Review
Harmonies of Legacy: A Journey through Eric Lilley Trio’s Three
by Stamish Malcuss
Bathed in the soft luminescence of Lilley’s previous albums, Joie de Vivre and Follow Up (read our review HERE), Three by the Eric Lilley Trio is nothing short of a heartfelt homage. Three paints an intricate tableau that melds the legacy of the past with the vibrancy of the present. It’s a poetic nod to the heritage left by jazz maestros Bill Evans and Chick Corea, colored with the distinct shades of Lilley’s individuality and his Trio’s cohesive synergy.
Born out of the hallowed halls of Berklee and having shared stage moments with the likes of Chuck Berry and Donna Summer, Lilley’s life has been an oeuvre of its own. Three, released on March 17, 2023, serves as a storied journey that began under the watchful eye of his mother, Donna, a piano aficionado in Corona, California.
While Lilley’s earlier works celebrated his unique compositions and influences, Three offers a deeper resonance, possibly magnified by the poignant backdrop of Corea’s passing. The album eloquently weaves influences from both Evans and Corea. Lilley evokes Evans’s style with his chordal voicings and memorable melodic lines. In contrast, the indelible mark of Corea emerges in ensemble pieces, particularly evident in Lilley’s rhythmic drive on single notes and his cohesive interplay with the bass and drums.
‘Goats’ bursts forth as an effervescent opening piece, radiating infectious energy and rhythmic flair. From its first notes, the track captivates with its dynamic rhythm shifts and the masterful interplay among the musicians. Seamlessly melding swing with Latin jazz undertones, it’s lifted even higher by Espino’s rhythmic contributions. This piece demonstrates the Trio’s adaptability and underscores Lilley’s agility in improvisation and musical storytelling. Such is the track’s exuberant spirit; listeners will find it hard to resist being swept up in its joyful current.
The essence of Bill Evans oozes through tracks like ‘May Day.’ The solo piano ballad, crafted from rubato to waltz time and back, exudes an understated elegance that immediately brings to mind the signature touch of Evans. Lilley’s chordal voicings and melodic lines gracefully walk the listener through a landscape reminiscent of a time when jazz was the heart’s language. The tenderness of Lilley’s touch is a testament to his profound understanding of Evans’ style, rendering this track a poignant highlight.
‘Visiting Hours’ is a masterclass in musical collaboration, highlighting the Trio’s unmatched cohesion. From the moment the haunting rubato introduction flows into the ears, listeners are ensnared, captivated by the atmospheric stage set. Every artist’s expertise is on full display: Lilley’s profound piano voicings resonate deeply, Diamond’s poignant bowing stirs emotions, and Black’s nuanced handling of chimes and mallets brings an ethereal quality. As the piece transitions into its measured medium swing, a persistent rhythmic motif becomes the heart of the composition, grounding it and adding layers of narrative depth with every reiteration. The Trio’s astute use of space, their palette of instrumental colors, and their synchronized interplay combine to craft an auditory tapestry that is nothing short of mesmerizing. Though each artist’s solo stands distinct, they converge seamlessly, magnifying the musical stories of one another. Beyond being a reflective journey, ‘Visiting Hours’ encapsulates a delicate balance— the serenity and introspection of the composition juxtaposed against the vibrant, interconnected dynamics of the Trio. This performance is a chronicle of their shared musical odyssey and growth.
In Three, the Eric Lilley Trio crafts a sonic story that pays tribute to jazz legends while firmly establishing their own distinctive mark in the annals of the jazz canon. Each track unfolds like a chapter in a storybook, drawing listeners into the intimate world of Lilley’s musical genius and the Trio’s unparalleled synergy. To both the seasoned jazz aficionado and the connoisseur of piano jazz trios, this album offers a journey that bridges the legacies of the past with the present innovations. For those wishing to be immersed in this synergistic experience, Three is available at leading retailers.