Primal Mates "DUOS / TRIOS"
This is a chamber jazz group, chiefly using a lineup of vibes, cello, and guitar that calls up memories of the Modem Jazz Quartet, Gary Burton's early groups and even Jimmy Giuffre's trio with Jim Hall and Ralph Pena. They have an airy sound balancing baroque touches with a contemporary melodicism that sounds particularly nice when Colleen O'Brien's lovely voice is on the top. They can be very formal, as on "Interplay" and "Quiet Night", or get into reserved but pretty swinging as on "Black Magic" and "Eloign" where Chris Lee takes deft floating vibes solos. Just when you think you have them figured out though they come up with a left field surprise in "Cowboys". Guitarist Young opens this with a smeary Bill-Frisell-does-Aaron-Copeland panorama. Then O'Brien does a slightly hysterical monologue about a cowboy watching his herd on the trail and the entire thing explodes into a thumping jazz-rock power trio complete with fuzz-tone guitar licks. It all comes to an end with a chorus of "Home On The Range". Not exactly what Oregon or the MJQ might do but it's a lot of fun.
Jerome Wilson - Cadence
Primal Mates "Duo/Trio" contains some very fresh sounding music that explores the timbres of an unusual combination of musical sources including percussion (mostly vibes), cello, voice, melodica, and both acoustic and electric guitar. The eclectic mix of musical styles defies easy categorization. Much of the music is improvisatory and has clear jazz roots.
Because of the nature of the instruments, the texture is rather transparent throughout. Guitarist Khabu Doug Young and vibist Chris Lee complement one another beautifully and each also perform duets with Colleen O'Brien on cello. One particularly enchanting selection, "Repose," is a duet between vibes and cello in which the cello provides a pizzicato bass part and later plays the melody over a vibe ostinato. At times, the musicians create an ethereal mood that is greatly enhanced by singer/cellist O'Brien, whose airy voice is reminiscent of singer Gayle Moran's work with Chick Corea. She is able to make wide interval leaps accurately, adding to the "otherworldly" effect.
All three of these musicians sound wonderful together, performing complex musical passages with impeccable phrasing and nuance as well as improvising in a manner that is playfully intuitive, subtle and at times improvising with wild and carefree abandon. This is a thoroughly enjoyable CD that should open people's ears to new timbre possibilities. Hopefully, we will hear more from this interesting ensemble in the future.
Tom Morgan - Percussive Notes
Highly listenable ensemble oriented jazz with songs like "Interplay" right out of the 50's Mulligan, Chico Hamilton, MJQ and similar groups that used mellow counter- point and swing to deliver jazz. Chris Lee's vibraphone, Khabu Doug Young gui- tar and Colleen O'Brien's mostly wordless voice, and cello delivers highly accessible probing warm lines. "Just Start" has a jazz feel but spacious quality.
Their touch is light, open, airy, flowing with humor and creative genius. "Thoughts on a Quiet Night" is by Li Po sung talked lovingly by O'Brien while "Black Magic" drifts in long extended lines of plucked cello, voice as you are prepared for the poem. "Eloign" will remind you of early Modern Jazz Quartet work with its lush voicing and jazz mood. "Repose" is a minute of extensions while "Travelogue" again has MJQ flow and warmth. "Cowboys" is a spoken word poem by Colleen O'Brien that is subdued then takes off rocking and is the only cut out of place on the CD. Thoroughly enjoyable chamber jazz that made my day relaxed and less stressful. Recommended!
Chris Lunn - Victory Review
Last year's album Duo/Trio, from Primal Mates has been monopolizing my CD player of late. While some artists throw terms like "world music" and such around to make themselves sound versatile, these musicians actually create a unique blend of jazz, modem chamber music and the eclectic sounds of groups such as Oregon. The fact that the three accomplish such a range is noteworthy. The instrumentation may seem odd (vibes, cello voice and guitar), but the sound they make is anything but. They are able to combine the instruments and range of sounds in an intelligent but sensual way that "New Age" musicians merely aspire to, the trio soothes the spirit while giving the mind something to chew on.