The Carole Nelson Trio is centred around Carole’s composition and piano work accompanied by Cormac O’Brien on bass and Dominic Mullan on drums. They announced their arrival in 2017 with a debut album One Day in Winter, a lyrical journey through one winter’s day from dawn to moonrise in Carole’s Carlow home. This was followed by their second album Arboreal in February 2020, which takes a walk through woodland ecology, observing the interconnectedness of life.
The inspiration for Night Vision came from an intrigue into the life of creatures that live in the dark. However, the album is both thought provoking and stimulating with a real mix of moods conveyed by a different style approach to each track. We would encourage you to scan through all tracks as the album changes in the latter half.
The last sentence of the previous paragraph is an important one because this is an album that changes as it moves through the running order. ‘Chrysalis’ opens with simple motif played by Carole Nelson on the piano joined by dark the sounding bowed bass of Cormac O’Brien who goes on to produce some fascinating, otherworldly notes that I found quite disquieting. Drummer Dominic Mullan adds ripples of sound from the cymbal that gives some light to this brooding number. ‘Dreaming of Snake’ is more of an ensemble piece than the opening track. Carole Nelson continues at the piano with her deliberately placed, sparce notes and Cormac O’Brien mixes bowed and plucked bass notes that carry the light and shade of the piece. The tonal palette gets lighter as the tune progresses and the music moves away from a contemporary classical music sound to one more recognizable as a jazz sound.
There is an almost jaunty feel to the opening of ‘Entomology’ with some great bass lines – I particularly enjoyed the playing in the upper register – and a more upbeat piano sound. The drumming carries this feeling on using crisp patterns and the occasional one beat shot that punctuates the melody. This tune is a much brighter contrast to the opening two numbers and highlights the strength of the jazz element to this trio’s playing. The album’s title track eases back on the tempo for this wonderful example of a piano led jazz trio sound. ‘Night Vision’ has a wonderful melody that flows very nicely indeed with the piano and bass blending so well throughout the piece.
‘Enter Your Life’ opens with Cormac O’Brien producing a soundscape over which Carole Nelson plays a piano line which, in turn, is supplemented by a sax line also played by Carole. This tune has an introspective quality about it and how it is received by the listener will vary on each hearing; it is a clever piece of contemporary jazz writing. ‘Mayfly’ is a short, energetic flighty number that captures the brief lifespan of the insect that gives its name to the track’s title: wonderfully descriptive! The depth of sound on ‘The Silence of The Clouds’ is down to the bass playing of Cormac O’Brien over which Carole Nelson plays the tune’s melody while Dominic Mullan provides snaps of tone to counterbalance the resonant bass line – my standout tune selection for this album.
‘Deeper Still’ is built around a repeating piano phrase that becomes lighter and brighter as the tune moves on. The tonal variations are carried by the drumming of Dominic Mullan with the bass lines sat back in the mix adding a very subtle third dimension to the overall sound – an example of what I once read one musician describe as “simple complexity”. ‘And Still The Birds Sing’ is another fine illustration of Carole Nelson’s compositional ability and the trio’s ensemble jazz credentials. The tune flows effortlessly from start to finish – which comes all too soon in my opinion. The final track, ‘Meditation’, is, as one might expect from the tune’s title, a contemplative piece that moves sedately through its variations in tone, dynamics, and rhythms.
When I first got this album to review, I really wasn’t sure how I felt about it. This was, in part, because I allowed the styling of the first two tracks to dominate my thinking. Having listened through Night Vision several times now I have a greater appreciation for the writing and playing of the album as a whole, rather than as simply ten individual tracks. This is my first hearing of the work of the Carole Nelson Trio and I will certainly listen back to earlier album releases before returning to Night Vision, an album I have very quickly come to appreciate and enjoy as an album.
Musicians: Carole Nelson – piano & soprano saxophone; Cormac O’Brien – bass; Dominic Mullan – drums.
Tracklist: 1. Chrysalis. 2. Dreaming of a Snake. 3. Entomology. 4. Night Vision. 5. Enter Your Life. 6. Mayfly. 7. The Silence of Clouds. 8. Deeper Still. 9. And Still the Birds Sing. 10. Meditation.
Tracks 1, 3, 5, 6, 10 by Nelson/O’Brien/Mullan
Tracks 2, 4, 7, 8, 9 by Carole Nelson