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The Tangria Jazz Group
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: April 25, 2008
The Tangria Jazz Group

Review by Brad Walseth

Having just returned from Berkeley, I felt the timing was right to write about this trio from that hip Bay area enclave, whose third release has been heavy on my playlist for several weeks now. The sound of Tangria is a delicious blend of energy, intelligent sensitivity and creative expression that mirrors the vibrant community. The three musicians are obviously highly intelligent: drummer Sheryl Mebane received her doctorate and is working on her post doctorate project in environmental chemistry at UC-Berkeley and is a published author to boot!; pianist Simon Rochester is a physics doctorate candidate at the school, while bassist Justin Hellman is a graduate of the music school. Befitting their educational prowess, these brilliant young minds display exceptional talent at their musical output as well, but does this make the music sterile/clinical? Thankfully not, these three show considerable soul and an ability to swing, and the music is delivered with considerable youthful energy.

The three parties play extremely well together, presenting a compelling, yet straight-ahead take on a group of interesting covers and two Mebane originals. Rochester reminds one a bit of early Herbie Hancock with his nimbly rewarding oscillations, while Hellman delivers on the bass with his full deep tone and sharp intensity. Mebane holds it all together with her percolating melodic rhythms. A drummer who clearly understands both the importance of both the beat and the sound, Mebane's style has been described as in a Tony Williams vein, and I can't disagree. There is an Afro-rhythm underpinning to her precise, yet artistic playing. All three entertain with their pleasing solo turns.

The Tangria take (sweet, tangy and potent like tequila & sangria) on such classics as "Nature Boy," "Israel" and "Black Nile" will surely please most Jazz fans, while their high voltage version of "Impressions" will get your heart racing. The Mebane originals "Teach Yourself to Live Elsewhere" and "Bamako Love Walk" add a touch of Oakland groove and African percussion, while a version of Joe Henderson's "Isotope" is a pleasurable foray indeed. Tangria is an up and coming young jazz group that is making waves on the West coast, and one can hear why on this release. I'm sure this a group that has a bright future ahead of them and they will garner a wider audience with high quality releases such as this one, which has the added bonus of being packaged in an eco-wallet, lightweight environmentally-conscious package.

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