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CD Review: Lapis Trio, "The Travelers"

Written by Hrayr Attarian

Lapis Trio The Travelers

Carey Nielsen – Guitar

Dan Thatcher – Double bass

Tim Mulvenna – Percussion

The music on Lapis Trio’s enchanting The Travelers brims with a variety of global traditions and motifs and crackles with spontaneity. Guitarist Carey Nielsen penned all eight pieces on the album and drew inspiration from both Western classical repertoire as well as American and international artists.

The serene and uplifting “Hymn,” for instance, demonstrates baroque influences in Nielsen’s approach to the acoustic guitar. This solemn and structured ambience is further enhanced by bassist Dan Thatcher’s elegiac and eloquent conarcolines. Percussionist Tim Mulvenna provides understated rhythmic support with his resonant beats and softly rustling small instruments.

The title track meanwhile has West African hints in its mystical “narrative.” Nielsen plays shimmering, long notes in a darkly hued and expectant mood with warmth and sensuality as he embellishes the melody with agility and a poetic sense. Mulvenna and Thatcher provide a fluid and hypnotic backdrop that further highlights the tune’s harmonies.   

On the effervescent “The Fischer,” the brightly hued guitar and the dancing bass and percussion show the versatile keyboardist and arranger Clare Fischer’s influence. The mellifluous piece is, nevertheless, intimate and quite unique, not a mere derivation of the dedicatee’s work.   

One of the most delightfully unusual compositions is “Gallagher’s Gift.” Based on the lyrical interplay among the three musicians, it builds a cinematic atmosphere around the erudite and captivating performances. Thatcher takes center stage with a complex and enjoyable improvisation while Nielsen contributes clever and charming ad lib phrases. Mulvenna’s energetic beats surface briefly then fade into the background.

A definite Latin flavor abounds on the wistful “Clave,” with Nielsen stating the main theme in flamenco-rooted strums and chords. His tender and lilting extemporization is moving and passionate. Thatcher anchors the song with his reverberating and muscular thumps and thrums, while Mulvenna gently moves it in undulating waves. He also solos with gusto and elegance.

The Travelers is an intriguing recording that defies narrow genre-ism. Nielsen’s originals, the individual virtuosity of each trio member, and the camaraderie within the group help make this a uniformly superb disc. Moreover, given its wide range of styles it is guaranteed to have a wide appeal.

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