Arts album review

True jazz pizzazz

Danny Fox Trio’s most recent recording has it all

The Great Nostalgist
Danny Fox Trio
Hot Cup Records
Jan. 19, 2018

Danny Fox Trio, having found their strength in threes, is at the center of a fairy tale. Drummer Max Goldman, bassist Chris van Voorst van Beest, and titular pianist Danny Fox joined forces in 2008 to form the jazz group, which found success in its first records, The One Constant (Songlines, 2011) and Wide Eyed (Hot Cup, 2014). This January, the triad releases their third album, The Great Nostalgist, which is expectedly their best one yet.

The Great Nostalgist begins with a deep, rolling groove under the fairly mystical title “Adult Joe.” The nine songs that follow have similarly wistful names, from “Theme for Gloomy Bear” to “Truant” to “Emotional Baggage Carousel.”

I find this a welcome change from the straightforwardly evocative titles of typical jazz songs — Danny Fox Trio’s approach to their album is clearly focused inward. There’s a good kind of freedom in this: I feel welcomed, as I listen to these songs with such personal titles, to develop my own interpretations of the music. “Old Wash World,” for example, derives its name from New Wash World, Danny Fox’s laundromat, but it reminds me of polka dots and pirates.

Of course, the curious titling of songs from The Great Nostalgist is not the principal element of the album’s likeability — the performance is. 2018 marks a decade that Danny Fox Trio has been playing together, and listening to their latest album makes the reason they haven’t broken up quite obvious. While Goldman, Beest, and Fox are individually talented, as showcased in the album’s various solos and “Caterpillar Serenade” (the one piano-only song), they work better as a group. Their jazz is far from standard, exploring the rarer notes of instruments and never sticking to a single beat for long.

Perhaps the nicest thing about Danny Fox Trio is their versatility. The Great Nostalgist is a true wonder. It’s got spiciness (in “Cookie Puss Prize”) and heaviness (in “Fat Frog”) and adventure (in “Jewish Cowboy The Real Josh Geller”) and more, seeming to send the listener pleasantly backwards in time ... and leaving nothing unremembered.