Cerulean City - Trio Grande

On their debut CD Trio Grande, New York’s Cerulean City waste no time in getting into one of their loose-limbed, cinematic instrumentals. The trio (Christian Smith on guitar, John Servo on bass guitar, and Lars Burggren on drums) has been gaining much recognition for their wide-open live shows, and the opening track gives a glimpse into what this band is all about. “Disco Johnson” thrives on a firey bass groove and snappy drumming that allows Smith to wander about on his guitar, diving through the rhythm with well-planned assaults. The song winds up in a pulsating disco realm. Their thought-provoking excursions remind me of another guitar trio, Raisinhill. The bands share an affinity for diverse, melodic instrumentals and jazzy changes.
"Sherbert" starts with a subdued section that gives way to a sweet midtempo cruise that sees the rise and fall of several styles, from a percussive carribean lilt to a chunky group vamp, each subtly changing during the trip. Building in intensity, the song careens into a space-rock climax full of progressive-sounding time changes and tasteful accents by each member. "We Smoke 'Em Peace Pipe" hints at the thumping groove of the first track, but with darker tones from the guitarists and strident rhythm. Cerulean City has more ideas than they can use, though, and this tune takes a turn for the mellow about halfway through. The members then feed off of each other for an extended period of jamming including many solos and experimental drumbeats before returning to the structure of the tune.

"Frostration" is an apt title for a song from a band that spends most of its time in New York. Full of crisp chords that beg for air guitar reinterpretation, this track features more of the same crystal-clear playing and willful funk/jazz compositions that define the band. Every track on this disc seems to have various sections that cover the spectrum of tempo and atmosphere. "Frostration" is sneering, happily-crafted subway jazz. "Very Toight" is sure to get entire rooms bobbing their heads with its snappy intro and four-on-the-floor funk. "The Upgrade" starts as a dimly lit rock interlude and then bursts with sinewy guitar melodies and more of the outstanding drumming and low-end engineering. Melodies zing around like fireflies on a summer night.

The band's namesake track opens with a wreath of backwards guitar sounds and eases tenderly into a near-reggae beat that gives the bass and guitar room to craft patient, sleepy interplay. By the end, it's a glorious wall of interlocking guitars and anthemic atmosphere. "Leonard" is perhaps the most likable track, and the silence in the song does as much for it as the tricky composition and swinging signatures. The song rides a hypnotic bass line and builds upon itself to create an entirely new song. "Pot Belly" is the album's shortest song at four and a half minutes, but the amount of goodness contained within belies its relatively small stature. "No A/C" glides on a James-Brown-like funk foundation as Smith lays down some positively bluesy guitar. The album ends with the swift "23rd Hour", a song that sets off images of passing mountain ranges and car wheels humming long the highway.

This young trio has tapped into a cerebral style of instrumental music that reflects the scholarly ways of the members, who have studied under the likes of Wayne Krantz, Ken Plainfield, and John Pattitucci. If you are a fan of open-ended jams and skillful playing, this CD contains the groovin' goodness that you seek.

--Bryan Rodgers