Chris McCarthy (p), Chris Tordini (b), Steven Crammer (d)
Bar code: 8427328436533
This is an album about procrastination and growth. When everyone’s priorities were up ended in March 2020, I found myself uninspired to compose until March 2021. Without performing to keep me motivated, I fell into doing trivial work that did not align with my goals and tastes. With the world shut down, it wasn’t clear when I would ever record another album. My last project Still Time To Quit (Ropeadope) was released in April 2020, and the anti-climax that came with a string of canceled album release shows certainly contributed to my creative stagnation thereafter.
After a year of hardly playing with others, I returned to writing after a casual reading session with Steven Crammer and Chris Tordini. I tried to write repertoire that showcased the extremely open ended yet grounded approach they take to everything they play. Having played lots of music with too many chord changes, I preferred to create interesting counterpoint between the outer lines in the composition and let the improvisation grow from there. The clarity and drive that they deliver in every note make my songs come to life.
Thank you to Jordi Pujol and Fresh Sound Records for believing in this project. I was inspired to work with the label after recording Eden Bareket’s beautiful record 'Day Dream' in 2021. To have a label across the ocean actively supporting and pushing my peers and me to record our music is not to be taken for granted. Thank you to Sam Minaie for doing an amazing mix and master of the project, and to Taiji Kuroda for the beautiful album artwork. Thank you to my family and my love, Kayla Williams, for always pushing me to be better.
I hope this music inspires you to keep making whatever you’re making. There’s always still time to reassess your priorities.
"One of the most impressive and original pianists on the New York jazz scene."
—Hot House Jazz Magazine
"Effortless but meticulously fashioned, spontaneous yet precisely and exquisitely delivered, the piano trio magic presented on Priorities—pianist Chris McCarthy's fifth album—displays the kind of nonchalance and sense of experience one might not expect from a 29-year old whose recorded output as a leader can be counted on one hand. Together with bassist Chris Tordini and Steven Crammer on drums McCarthy presents shape-shifting arrangements that rely on dynamic group interaction and playful melodic twists and turns to express a broad spectrum of jazz's traditions, going as far back as Erroll Garner or Ahmad Jamal, with the occasional nod to Thelonious Monk implied.
There's a rag feel to the jumping undercurrent of "No Not Yet," a minimalist and profoundly cool swing to "Overthinking" and more elaborate compositional paths charted on songs like the title track "Priorities," which builds momentum through its wide-open harmonic structure and rhythmic ambiguity. On "Yeehaw" McCarthy combines ragtime with gospel only to stop the building group-drive dead in its tracks with mean cymbals and ride-swing to bone-dry bass solo action. Instead of flexing, the band shows a great sense of restraint and finesse, providing one of the most fun and expertly crafted piano trio programs in a while."
—Pat Youngspiel (July 31, 2023)
All About Jazz