CD REVIEW  Emily Francis Trio – The Absent

Emily Francis Trio – The Absent
( CD Review by Mark McKergow)

The Absent is the debut CD from keyboardist and London College of Music graduate Emily Francis and her eponymous trio (Trevor Boxall, bass guitar, and Liam Waugh, drums, also of punk-jazz anarchists WorldService Project). Francis’ website refers to her influences as “jazz-rock, 70's jazz-funk and soul”, and the material presented here showcases a fairly conventional fusion-type trio at work with a strong ensemble feel. 

What was not at all conventional, to my ears at least, was the catchiness of the tunes.  All six tracks on the 40-minute album are credited to the trio, and they each have plentiful earworm characteristics.  On only the second listen, I was already recognising and enjoying each piece.  The opening Hops n Scotch moves from a steady groove to feature some nice Rhodes piano soloing.  Winnebago develops a nice loping 12/8 gambol, with good dynamic variation.   Sabo, perhaps my favourite track, is an optimistic bounce sustained by a rhythmic ostinato from the bass and some flowing piano work.  Trunk, which features the guitar of guest Stefanos Tsourelis, brings us squarely back into the territory of 70’s jazz-funk with some interesting bass work from Trevor Boxall.   Liam Waugh’s drumming is a key part of the sound, always tight yet moving with the music in unobtrusive ways.  

This recording shows a good start for Emily Francis and her colleagues.  It’s very accessible, highly catchy and well produced and performed.  The tunes are great – personally I’d like to have heard a bit more fire and interplay in the soloing sections.

The piano trio world is a crowded marketplace, and the attention gets grabbed by innovators like Robert Glasper, or spirited performers like Chihiro Yamanaka (both gracing the stage at Ronnie Scott’s next month by the way). I hope that Francis can build on this promising debut and carve out a distinctive space for herself.     

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