Richard Sears (p), Martin Nevin (b), Evan Hughes (d)
Bar code: 8427328424790
Great jazz performances take a listener to a realm thats both intimately familiar and bracingly new. This exceptional young trio led by Los Gatos-raised pianist Richard Sears dwells in that sweet spot between tradition and discovery.
Focusing on Sears beautifully wrought original compositions, Skyline is a response to the lush beauty and grandeur of the Santa Cruz Mountains, where it was recorded. The album opens with the dawning benediction of Early Light, which flows into Golden Hour, a spacious evocation of the end-of-day transition that bathes redwoods in sumptuous warm light.
Friends since their teenage years, Sears, bassist Martin Nevin and drummer Evan Hughes came together as a trio in New York City in 2012. They find more unbridled joy than sorrow in Ornette Colemans classic blues Tears Inside, while uncovering a melancholic streak running through the standard Easy Living. Beyond the idyllic studio setting, Sears draws deep inspiration from the company hes been keeping. He recently recorded his six-part suite for drum legend Tootie Heath commissioned by the Los Angeles Jazz Society (Sturm is the fourth movement from that astonishing work). And one week before this session he filled in for Ethan Iverson in the quartet of drum maestro Billy Hart.
While Sears achieves a holistic, programmatic feel by closing the album with a more assertive version of Early Light, the story Skyline tells is really about jazz itself and the way that sensitive musicians can respond to each other and their immediate surroundings. While many of his contemporaries are casting a wide net for influences, Sears and his bandmates are savvy post-bop explorers dedicated to expanding the jazz idiom from within.
San Francisco Chronicle and the San Jose Mercury
Drummer Hughes is given a place at the front to influence this remarkable trio’s soundprint and fairly relishes it. Richard Sears’ keyboard style is an intriguing mix of economy and challenge and spiky right-hand runs with a persistent legato feel, leaving drums and bass to provide impetus - which they do with interest. The result is an original piano trio approach from three young friends who formed this band in NYC just three years ago.
Sears, who is from California, contributed five of these compositions which, rather like his keyboard attitude, display an unfussy, open structure. I thought it would be interesting to see how the trio dealt with Ornette’s Tears Inside and the familiar standard Easy Living. The results are surprising. There’s little hint of melancholy in the Coleman apart from its title. Sears attacks it as a left-hand-heavy medium-slow romp, chunky and groovy. You’d want to dance to these tears, preferably with another optimist. Easy Living gets a halting, but expressive delivery of the melody with brushes and bass busily active in the background. Nevin and Hughes have vital roles in all of these tracks and contribute to the creative spark impressively.
The piano trio field is a crowded one in jazz, and it takes something novel, technically outstanding and imaginative to earn notice there. The Sears combo has put down a notice of intent with this recording, and doubtless we’ll be hearing more of them than a skimpy 32 minutes and 45 seconds.
Anthony Troon, Jazz Journal (December 2015)