Saturday, March 31, 2018

Benavent, Baker and Ineke Create an "Opening"

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

When I first received my copy of Openng, the instrumentation - tenor sax, bass and drums - brought me back to my first listening of Sonny Rollins’ A Night at the Village Vanguard which has been reissued and remastered as a double CD as part of the Rudy van Gelder [RVD] collection.

Sonny worked the gig when the club had a Sunday afternoon - dinner break - Sunday evening format using either Wilbur Ware and Elvin Jones or Donald Bailey and Pete LaRoca on bass and drums respectively.

At the time of its release in 1957, I had reached a certain proficiency as a Jazz drummer, but I had played the music primarily in larger groups such as big bands and octets.

Sonny’s Vanguard album made me aware of a lot of things, not the least of which is how important it is for each musician in a trio to listen to one another because that format strips things down to the barest of essentials: melody, harmony and rhythm

Another aspect of the music that it brought home to me was that such a “naked environment” really allowed for a more natural flow of the music in terms of the interaction of the instruments since there are no other horns or comping instruments to play off of.

That trio format is not for the faint of heart; there’s nowhere to hide. The tendency might be to hold back but you gotta be brave and venture forth otherwise to music becomes boring, full of cliches and other musical “safe harbors.”

It’s exciting and a bit scary at the same time because the music almost directs itself, assuming of course, that the musician’s who are making it have something to say.

Enter tenor saxophonist Joan Benavent, bassist Matt Baker and drummer Eric Ineke, each a master player in their own right, whose individual talents and skills blend beautifully to produce the music on the seven tracks that make up Opening [SedaJazz records DL V1230-2017].

It’s almost as though Joan, Matt and Eric  as the O3 Trio have channeled that spirit of Sonny and his Vanguard cohorts, brought it forward, and added their own sonority and ideas to make tenor sax-bass-drums Jazz with a texture that reflects their personalities and tastes.

Of course, it’s unfair to attempt to compare Joan to the incomparable Sonny Rollins, but there are some similarities.

One in particular that struck me as I listened to the music on Opening and that is that Joan shares Sonny’s big sound on the big horn; his tone is full, robust, and rich. His sonority engulfs the listener. Much like Sonny, Joan plays the tenor saxophone with brio, fuego and caliente - enthusiasm, fire and heat. And much like Sonny, although he is aware of the harmonic references and substitutions, his solos tended to be melodically and thematically configured.

Because of the bare-boned configuration, bassist Matt Baker’s virtuosic technique actually gets to be heard as a distinctive voice instead of just being felt as a pulse within a rhythm section. His arco [bow] work on bass is exceptionally and rarely heard in a Jazz setting.”

Drummer Eric Ineke has the wisdom and experience to not “push” the music in a particular direction; he doesn’t overplay and thus doesn’t overpower. Instead with his steady time-keeping and “colorist” approach to the rhythm he enables the previously mentioned natural flow between the three instruments.

What also struck me about Eric’s performance on this CD was how beautiful his drums sounded. Clean, crisp with just the right amount of overtone on the cymbals and timbre on the drums coming through. The recording engineer really got his drums “right”

And just when you think the trio groove can’t get much better during the course of the first five tracks, a sextet materializes on the closing two tunes of the CD when Voro Garcia, trumpet, Toni Belenguer, trombone and Santi Navalon on piano join in on Speak Low and Grew’s Tune, respectively. The arrangement on the late pianist’s Mulgrew Miller’s tune that closes the CD rekindled memories of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers when Freddie Hubbard, Curtis Fuller and Wayne Shorter formed the “front line.”

While doing some research on the web about about the musicians, I came across a full review of Opening [SedaJazz records DL V1230-2017] by François van de Linde at

I wrote to François and requested his permission to use his review in this blog posting and he kindly granted it. You can read the review on his site which is located at

© -  François van de Linde, copyright protected; all rights reserved; used with permission.

“The first thing that comes to mind listening to 03 Jazz Trio’s Opening is that it must be the work of a tight-knit outfit that has been playing together nightly for months.

That’s not the case. Although the protagonists have been crossing each other’s paths. The Spanish tenor saxophonist Joan Benavent and American bassist Matt Baker both live in Valencia. Dutch master drummer Eric Ineke, also an enthusiastic teacher at music schools and conservatories all around Europe, met Benavent at the Conservatory of The Hague. Subsequently, Benavent invited over Ineke to Valencia’s Seda Jazz school. There, Benavent coupled the drummer with the versatile Matt Baker to form a recording unit for Benavent’s ideas to come to fruition. The men participated in an avant-leaning session (and live performance) that turned out remarkably well.

By his own account inspired by John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, hard bop and classical music, there is nothing that suggests Benavent is overreaching. An immaculate and extravert stylist – Benavent searches the extremes of his horn but is neither wild nor aggressive – the big and clear-sounding saxophonist tackles such diverse compositions as Debussy’s Danses De Delphes, Weill/Nash’ Speak Low and Benavent’s post-boppish Opening. This particular ‘opening’ of the program, definitely marked by the ‘Impulse label’ vibe, is something else. The grand, bowed bass opening, loose drum polyrhythm and Benavent’s lyrical yet charged theme immediately works on the emotions, pulling you in the promising universe of the album. Bang! It further develops through the solo of Benavent, whose ‘singing’ tone effectively ices his cake of sheets of sound and staccato playing, via fluent switches of tempo by the trio, subtle interaction of snare drum with sax and bass and a melodic drum intermezzo to the humorous, concise coda in march rhythm. Held together by Benavent’s thematic variation throughout. A royal cake indeed.

Sira i Xesca is a playful and hefty dip into mambo land. Añoranza, a composition by E. Granados, presents a happy marriage between high drama and the smoky tenor atmosphere so typical for classic jazz. The fact that the album’s two mainstream jazz tunes – thoroughly swinging sextet treatments of Speak Low and Mulgrew Miller’s Grews Tune – are snowed under a bit by the album’s front-running setting, speaks volumes about the trio’s skills and passion.

Surely we will see a growth on (relatively) young Benavent’s part in the department of storytelling, perhaps the least imposing aspect of the album, a carefully prepared session that undoubtedly revolves around the controlled fury of Benavent and the trio’s alert interaction. Ineke, elder statesman of hard bop who nonetheless has done his part of ‘far out’ playing during his long career, feels like a fish in the water. Matt Baker, a jack-of-all-hi-level-trades working in the fields of jazz, world, folk and classical music, contributes a forceful tone, melodic, versatile phrasing and exceptional use of the bow.

The tart, touching first part of Debussy’s Danseuses De Delphes is followed up by a meaty drums/tenor battle, the song ending with a blast not unlike one of those surprising thunderous twists in a Mingus performance. The curious but effective mix of vamp and modality of Coffee At The Almost Dead People Place is enticing. Moreover, it’s gutsy and fresh. The whole sum of Opening is just that, made all the more exciting by the sonorous and punchy sound production.”


Joan Benavent (tenor saxophone), Matt Baker (bass), Eric Ineke (drums) Voro Garzia (trumpet 6-7), Toni Belenguer (trombone 6-7), Santi Navalon (piano 6-7)


in 2016 in Valencia


as SedaJazz Records DL.V1230 in 2017

Track listing

Sira I Xesca
Danseuses de Delphes
Coffe At The Almost Dead People Place
Speak Low
Grews Tune

Check out Joan Benavent’s website here.

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