“Rocket Man” from Novoa / Gress / Gray is an Engaging Object Lesson in the Potential of Contemporary Jazz Trios

Cover art courtesy of Bandcamp

Taken from the forthcoming full-length Novoa / Gress / Gray, Vol. 1, the track “Rocket Man” is an engaging read of the pulse of today’s jazz trio format. Over the course of the tune’s nine minutes, the Brooklyn-based combo of pianist Eva Novoa, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Devin Gray err on the side of mystery, throwing caution (even intention) to the wind as they enact and initiate the song out of tentative dissonant piano clusters from Novoa and a soft-howling modular synth from Gress.

“Rocket Man” then takes on an almost-reluctant form, as Novoa introduces thick, enharmonic chords, minor-second tones jabbed together; Gress trades his synth for sustained notes on the double bass, with Gray offering the faintest presence through taps on the bells of the cymbals and muted snare hits. Novoa’s faint vocalizations hummed in tandem with her piano melodies draw the listener in and seem to bring “Rocket Man” into greater cohesion, making the tension feel strangely intimate; the end the performance plays like a song that has bloomed on the vine. Novoa’s hesitant, chromatic arpeggios recall Marilyn Crispell in more subdued moments, and the collective, restless swirl of Novoa, Gress and Gray is mixed within the blurry jazz-classical palette.

In total, “Rocket Man” opts for emotionality over any arch-experimentalism, and is a worthy trip for listeners willing to take the ride.

Novoa / Gress / Gray Trio, Vol. 1 is out February 21, 2024 on Brooklyn’s 577 Records and available for preorder here.

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