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All About Jazz

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3Play+ are a quartet, featuring trumpeter Phil Grenadier, pianist Josh Rosen, bassist Lello Molinari and drummer Marcello Pellitteri. Originally a trio, the band became 3Play+ with the addition of Grenadier; presumably the idea of calling the band 4Play was dismissed at an early stage. On the group's debut, American Waltz, it is joined on some tracks by guitarist Mick Goodrick and tenor saxophonist George Garzone. Rosen and Molinari are both professors at Boston's Berklee College of Music. Pianist Rosen wrote all but one of the album's eight tracks, demonstrating both the range of his musical influences and his flexibility as a composer. The album's eponymous opening track is a gentle ¾ time tune that takes its inspiration from the roots of American folk music, and is reminiscent of bands like Hem. Rosen's introduction is beautiful, setting the scene for Goodrick, Grenadier and Molinari to enter one at a time and gradually build up the tune's layers until Grenadier brings the melody back in to close the piece. Garzone takes the central role on "Buttah," a tune inspired by Sonny Rollins' classic "Oleo" that is driven by Pellitteri's funky drumming as Garzone plays a fluid solo. "How Do I Know What I Don't Know?" is the album's most beautiful and immediate tune. Grenadier's muted trumpet playing, a strength on the whole CD, is especially effective here. The melody line seems to demand a lyric—with the right words this could become a popular addition to the jazz songbook. "Happy Cramping" is a group composition which opens with a fast, bop-flavored solo from Grenadier. Molinari and Pellitteri soon add a tight rhythmic underpinning that keeps the tune together as Rosen takes over from Grenadier and the piece becomes more free-form. The closing "Bulletrain" is a 20-minute opus which seems to have left the musical roots displayed on "American Waltz" far behind until, that is, about nine minutes in, when the free-form playing blends almost seamlessly into a clearly recognizable blues. Goodrick's guitar part is a key element, whether he's playing solo or in unison with Grenadier. American Waltz showcases a fine set of tunes, played with skill and enthusiasm by a talented and innovative set of musicians.

allmusic.com

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The waltz form is not the exclusive domain with which 3 Play + express themselves, but classicism and a sense of European tradition are clearly heard in their concept of modern jazz on this recording. The group borrows from composers influential in their upbringing in contemporary jazz, and this lends to the charted music sporting great depth and substance. The lesser-known figure of the group is pianist Josh Rosen, but he has the say as the exclusive writer and ostensible leader of the group. He's also collected prime figures of the Boston jazz scene, including lead trumpeter Phil Grenadier, bassist Lello Molinari, drummer Marcello Pellitteri, and veteran guests like guitarist Mick Goodrick and tenor saxophonist George Garzone. Recorded at the Berklee School of Music where these players have studied, instructed, or both, the music has a clean, linear factor with space for tangential improvisation. At-times angular ideas, modal frames, or ethnic diversions enter into the picture, making for music that is consistently interesting. Grenadier is impressive throughout, leading during the free bop of the collectively composed "Happy Cramping" where Rosen injects quick elfin steps, or on the serene, country-styled title track and the non-plussed "How Do I Know What I Don't Know," with its easy, lightly sauced sound. Modern jazz fans will easily recognize how the group adapts the Sonny Rollins' evergreen "Oleo" into the fun and witty "Buttah" with even more extreme Thelonious Monk-like edginess. "Be a Battery" is modified from Carla Bley's "Walking Batterie Woman" with inebriated, staggered phrasings and more spatial holes than swiss cheese in its facade. "Soupy's Coming Home" is the most endearing track, a 7/8 neo-bop modal piece that expresses frivolous humor, while the nearly 21-minute "Bulletrain" is a free to speedy, slowed discourse merging into lumbering funk featuring Goodrick. There's talent aplenty in this excellent group of seasoned musicians who play purposefully and offer a unique viewpoint within contemporary progressive jazz. This music should not be confined only to connoisseurs of the New England/Cape Cod scene.

Boston Phoenix

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3play+ do what they wanna

FREE + FORM As 3play+, Grenadier, Rosen, Molinari, and Pellitteri want to play it all.

By JON GARELICK  |  June 2, 2009
Given the sound of its first track (which is also the title of the album), you'd have every reason to think that 3play+'s debut CD is about to plunge you into Bill Frisell–style Americana. Rolling piano chords, subdued electric guitar, muted trumpet, and that easy waltz tempo set you up for country. But then the next track of American Waltz (ZiggleZaggle Music) starts with a concise off-the-beat drum intro and a jagged unison trumpet/tenor-sax line. Bebop, right? Next up: free-flying trumpet over bass and drums, not a chord progression in sight — free jazz that gets even more tumultuous as the piano comes in. Then a ballad that sounds as if it could come out of the Great American Songbook, that muted trumpet again, a beautifully shaped melody and chord progression, ripe for lyrics. And that's not to mention the 20-minute closing track, the first 10 minutes or so of which are completely free before it settles into a funk-blues vamp.

So, where are we? There's no telling, and that's how 3play+ like it. When I confront 3play+ pianist/composer Josh Rosen with my confusion over coffee at a Fenway Starbucks, he seems delighted. Not at my confusion, exactly, but at the mix of influences and styles I'm picking up on. "That's what we wanted."

Of course, there are practicalities involved in programming an album with a mix of free and straight-ahead and touches of country and folk. "Hardly anyone is up for an hour of free jazz," Rosen concedes. "You have to offer moments of relief."

But it's also an honest reflection of the band's æsthetic. Rosen, for one, came up in the '70s, living in New York, partaking heavily of the avant-garde Lower East Side jazz-loft scene while hitting legendary Greenwich Village jazz boîte Bradley's to hear pianists like Tommy Flanagan, Hank Jones, and Kenny Barron. He took it all in. "I always ask my students," says the Berklee prof, " 'Who did you go to hear this week?' Half the time they just say, 'Oh, we didn't go out.' " And he's incredulous. "That's where you learn! And not just the playing, but the vibe, the interactions, the conversation."

3play+ started as a jam-session band — friends who lived near one another getting together to play once a week at one of their houses. At that time, circa 2001, it was Rosen, bassist Lello Molinari, and drummer Ralph Rosen (no relation). Various players came and went before the band locked in as a trio (3play) with drummer Marcello Pellitteri and appeared monthly at the Zeitgeist Gallery (later to become the Lily Pad, where they return on the 18th). Eventually trumpeter Phil Grenadier (+) became a regular.

Despite their eclectic tastes and often free excursions — most live sets start like that final 20-minute track, "Bulletrain," gradually finding their way to a particular tune — this is a band of seasoned pros with a cohesive group identity. On the album, Grenadier's in-the-moment poise and Miles-like lyricism are complemented by guest turns from saxophonist George Garzone and guitar sage Mick Goodrick. At ease with free playing, they all have an affinity for strong forms. And Rosen knows how to write them. Take that second-track bebopper, "Buttah." The melody was inspired by Sonny Rollins's "Oleo," but with the pitches altered so that it would keep moving through different keys, Ornette Coleman style. And if Rosen's comping behind the soloists sounds familiar, that's because it's built on the chord changes of Coltrane's "Giant Steps." "It wasn't until I finished the tune that I realized it was inspired by three saxophonists."

That schooled yet heartfelt writing keeps the music resilient over multiple listens — and keeps the players on their toes. And Rosen — who leads the band with Molinari — is always happy to have you recognize the influences. "I love when people can't quite place it and keep saying, "What is that?' " He adds, "I fell in love with free jazz in the '70s, but I've also always had a devotion to and reverence for the tradition."

Hartford Courant

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American Waltz - 3Play + (Ziggle Zaggle Music) - 3Play+ is a Boston-based quartet organized by pianist Josh Rosen and bassist Lello Molinari. Along with Phil Grenadier (trumpet) and Marco Pellitteri (drums), the group blends many diverse elements into an often fascinating sound. The title tune opens the program and it's a pretty sweet piece influenced by folk and country music. Guest guitarist Mick Goodrick plays lovely chords in the background beneath Grenadier's muted trumpet solo. Rosen's eloquent piano lines give "How Do I Know What I Don't Know" an elegant feel, with a hint of Bruce Hornsby and Carole King in the melody and harmonies. Molinari's highly expressive bass work takes some of the spotlight on "Old Fashioned" along with short but handsome statements from trumpet and piano. The music moves "out" on pieces such as "Happy Cramping" with its hyper walking bass line and angular trumpet and piano solos. There's more action and interplay on "Be A Battery" with Garzone and Grenadier exploring the ins and outs of Rosen's quirky melody. "Buttah" is sweet but has a "sneaky-snaky" rhythm and a tenor sax solo from guest George Garzone that is both sly and fiery. The program closes with the multi-sectioned "Bullet Train", a 20-minute piece that travels many different paths. From the soft, sonic, interplay opening few minutes, the 5 musicians (Goodrick returns for this piece) just seem to be having fun. There's a hard-bop section for Grenadier's rampaging trumpet lines, a "funky reggae" interlude with Goodrick's lines darting around Rosen's bottom-heavy piano figures leading to a short bass spot, and, after another fine trumpet spot, the guitarist gets the final few minutes to play around. 3Play + started as a group of friends "jamming" together and became a band that blends the joy of group interplay with melodic adventure. Some listeners may wonder how to categorize this recording; file under "good music." For more information, go to www.zigglezagglemusic.com.

All About Jazz

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The cleverly titled American Waltz might deserve a more fitting inscription as American Quilt," because woven into the admirably crafted compositions of leader/pianist Josh Rosen are all the elements that are American music.

Rosen, a faculty member at Berklee College of Music, lists Bob Moses, Bennie Wallace, and George Schuller as performance partners. Besides projects with Ethiopian master musician Mulatu Astake, Stan Strickland, Dave Fox's Adventures In Sound, Bangalore and The Infinite Ensemble, he toured with Ethiopiques and the Either/Orchestra in 2008.

3 Play+'s cofounder is bassist Lello Molinari, another professor at Berklee. The band's progression has led to the current lineup that includes drummer Marcello Pellitteri and trumpeter Phil Grenadier.

The disc opens with the Copland-esque title track, featuring guest guitarist Mick Goodrick's folky sound. When Grenadier steps up for his part, the Americana is fully revealed. This sweet track could easily be identified as a Bill Frisell/Ron Miles collaboration. That feeling is the bookend to the electric-Miles jam of "Bulletrain," a 20 minute-plus workout that moves from freak-out to blues groove, with Goodrick playing host to the overtly casual grooves cut by Grenadier.

In between, the band delivers more tasty American music, such as the Sonny Rollins tribute "Buttah," with tenor saxophonist George Garzone sizzling through with his signature sound. There is a soft ballad, "How Do I Know What I Don't Know?," and a skittering stop/start chase "Be A Battery." Rosen features Molinari and Grenadier on "Happy Cramping," as they chase each other's tails, trading energy through musical gymnastics.

Throughout American Waltz, the compositions and playing are nicely balanced to allow for each to share the spotlight.

JazzReview.com

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The quartet augments it’s mode of delivery with prominent New England artists, guitarist Mick Goodrick and tenor saxophonist George Garzone.  And what a shrewdly balanced program it is.  Here, compositional foundations come first, where the soloists’ intriguing improvisational workouts offer innumerable perspectives and tonal shades.

    They mix it up rather effectively throughout amid down homey jazz grooves, intense free-bop, complex rhythmic passages and a prismatic overtone that hovers atop the overall presentation.  On “Be A Battery,” the band conveys shades of Ornette Coleman while executing a layered vibe, sparked with fiery solos by Bergonzi and trumpeter Phil Grenadier.  Moreover, the artists use depth and space as a vantage point.

    There’s a captivating fusion of high-octane jazz interplay in concert with subtle surprises and variances of pitch, accented by interweaving unison choruses.  Yet the magnum opus is the final piece “Bulletrain,” which is executed like a suite, composed of linear phrasings and pianist Josh Rosen’s ethereal synth-based implementations.  The musicians also engage in avant-jazz movements while making sense out of chaos.  It’s a captivating assortment of rapidly-paced, free improvisation launched atop bustling currents and loosely organized motifs.  However, they contrast the excitement with an easygoing stride in spots.  Sure enough, there’s a lot going on via these comprehensive pieces that warrant repeated spins.  A top pick for 2009, it is!

    Reviewed by: Glenn Astarita
    Copyright© 2009 JazzReview.com®. All Rights Reserved.

Jazz.com

Jazz.com_logo_.png3Play+: Bulletrain
American Waltz (Ziggle Zaggle Music)
Composed by Josh Rosen

Rating: 91/100

I've been operating under the assumption that Bill Frisell was the head of the Jazz/Americana Intersection Association. While that idea still might hold sway, I was also fairly sure that Bill was the only person present at the meetings. Just imagine a guy sitting there in a metal folding chair, electric guitar plugged into a huge rack of effects. He starts out playing a slow, mournful take on "Goodnight Irene," which is slowly dissected and turned inside out, becoming something that Albert Ayler might have done if he'd traded his horn for a guitar and a pile of silicon.

Well, if this illusion holds, then 3Play+ have been hanging out in the coat closet during those meetings, too shy to come out and say "Hello." One thing is certain, they have been listening.

"Bulletrain" does not start from the obvious and play tricks with it. Instead, abstractions float around looking for cohesion: a guitar scrape here, a cymbal wash there, a horn poot above, a bass blurt below (I hate that I just typed that). This collection of random ambience does indeed pull in, slowly drawing the moans together into a kind of avant meditation. About a third of the way in, momentum begins to build and fragments of sound — piano, bowed bass, guitar, trumpet — fly off in all directions. Grenadier is flitting around madly as Goodrick comps under him.

With about nine minutes to go (we're talking over 20 minutes in total here), something amazing happens. The formerly "out there" piece of music transforms itself into a slinky and dirgy little blues. You might think that this would feel awkward but my ears disagree. There's just enough tension in the blues to make it seem like a musical commentary on the first half of the piece. Mick Goodrick's guitar begins the re-transformation process with about two minutes to go, and just when you think the blues is going to head back to splatteration, the intensity dials back, leaving just the right amount of unresolved tension.

I wonder if Bill knows those guys are in his closet?

Bostom Events Guide

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Performer Magazine

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3 Play+ demonstrated a breadth of vision and diversity - the stylistic territory ranges from free-improv space jam to reggae to straight-ahead swing to even eighth-note rock to jazz waltz. Josh Rosen evoked a refreshingly relaxed openness, even when playing clusters and denser harmonies, yet burned with the best as heard unambiguously on a blisteringly up-tempo group improvisation. Bassist Lello Molinari shined as an accompanist and soloist on Cole Porter's "Everything I Love," and walked with a ferocious, metronomic intensity on the aforementioned improv. A surprise standout was a tastefully reharmonized rendition of "The Times They Are A'Changin'." (arr. Josh Rosen) Buoyed by a fluid, lyrical interpretation, Bob Dylan's classic is newly revealed as a haunting jazz waltz.