By Eric Harabadian
The title Nameless Neighbors is, indeed, intriguing and somewhat cryptic and curious. The music certainly reflects that as Nick Sanders fronts a not-so-typical piano trio. The modern young trailblazer approaches the ivories with a style that hints at convention but would rather turn it on its ear.
The opening piece “Chamberlain, Maine” appears seemingly devoid of a standard structure. But the band is wonderfully in sync and harmoniously astute at the same time. Sanders displays impressive classical-flavored runs coupled with weird little improvisational sidebars and ideas.
The appropriately named “Sandman” puts the listener in a dream-like state. All three musicians seem to exist in their own separate worlds but, by doing so; they augment each other as well. Sanders goes off on some minor tangents but resolves with a lullaby-like theme toward the end.
“New Town” is a bit more dynamic as the group picks up the pace. Sanders demonstrates some athletic left hand work that complements his bouncy Keith Jarrett-like melodic explorations.
“Row 18. Seat C” swings in a bit more of a traditional manner. Its mid-tempo feel is offset by an avant garde- like thread that runs through Sanders’ playing.
“Hymn” follows and has a reverent, stately quality to it. The trio, again, takes liberties and plays off each other nicely.
“Dome Zone” is, essentially, a solo piano piece built around clever repetitive figures and some catchy syncopation.
“Flip” is delicate and engrossing, with a thoughtful bass solo placed comfortably in the middle.
The first of three covers is a tune by Herbie Nichols called “’Orse at Safari.” It has kind of a bluesy vibe, with some exotic and angular intervals and harmonic ideas.
The title track “Nameless Neighbors” finds Sanders constructing the piece based on arpeggios that blossom into a lively odd-metered swing.
In keeping with an eclectic theme it’s no surprise that the chose one of Thelonious Monk’s more rare compositions, “Manganese.” Sanders is brilliant in taking a lot of Monk’s melodic inventiveness and making it his own. He can also mimic the master’s unique style to a tee.
“Simple” is nice because it shines the spotlight on bassist Henry Fraser. He utilizes the time well, with a piece that’s not necessarily flashy but is captivating in its direct and no-frills approach.
“Motor World” is an interesting piece; It starts with solo piano and then quickly picks up the tempo in a brisk allegro fashion.
True to form, Sanders concludes the album as he began, with something some- what unpredictable. The overall theme of the record takes you on a journey to musical places rarely visited or virtually unknown. So, why not bring it all back to where music started for the NYC jazzman, to New Orleans where Sanders was raised. He masterfully plays a solo rendition of the 1941 Inkspots chestnut “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire.” And he performs with all the playful nostalgia of, say, Jelly Roll Morton as filtered through Eubie Blake.
The Nick Sanders Trio is a truly surprising and accomplished group.