Following up his engaging 2021 debut L.A. Source Codes featuring the likes of Bob Sheppard, Marvin “Smitty” Smith, Roy McCurdy and Jon Mayer (“the shared sense of purpose elevates the proceedings with a fiery chemistry” — Bass Musician), bassist and composer Will Lyle offers a new and refreshing view of his complete musicianship on the pared-down trio release TrioGram. The effortlessly swinging rapport Lyle achieves with pianist Bijan Taghavi and drummer Kofi Shepsuprevails on everything they choose to play: three Lyle originals, two by Taghavi, plus uplifting interpretations of songs by Victor Young (“Street of Dreams”), Irving Berlin (“How Deep Is the Ocean”), ’90s pop star Dido (“Thank You”) and the Afro-Cuban folkloric fusion ensemble Los Hermanos Arango (“Asojano”).
An upright and electric bassist, bandleader, composer, arranger, and producer from Orange County, California, Lyle recently earned his master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music, where he studied with 1961 MSM alumnus and faculty member Ron Carter. Before coming to MSM in 2020, he toured with the Ralph Peterson Fo’tet as well as drummer Billy Kilson’s quartet. He has collaborated with David Kikoski, Lawrence Leathers, Kendrick Scott, Roy McCurdy (Cannonball Adderley alumnus), Ralph Moore, Pasquale Grasso, Bill Cunliffe, Ron Escheté and Barbara Morrison, among others, and is currently a member of master hard-bop pianist Jon Mayer’s trio. On TrioGram, Lyle synthesizes all the knowledge he’s gained from these experiences into a coherent statement, bristling with harmonic nuance and intimate lyricism.
Lyle wrote “Esau,” he says, as “a reflection of the times we live in: intense, erratic, yet soulful. The old ways erode, as the future emerges.” His “Ezra” is a beautiful and flowing piece with harmony “dedicated to the mystical and unsaid,” while the brief “Trap” was conceived with “the groove of our time” in mind, a slow and undulating rhythmic feel ubiquitous in contemporary hip-hop, highly amenable to quasi-replication with live instruments. Taghavi, in addition to his captivating pianism throughout, contributes two superb originals: the harmonically involved waltz “Changes” dedicated to his mentor Robert Estrin, and the playful “Lalyc’s Groove,” titled after Taghavi’s nickname for the leader.
Taghavi has worked with Dick Oatts, Rich Perry and Jay Anderson as part of his Duo Series at the National Arts Club NYC. He has also collaborated with Carmen Lundy, Joe Lovano, Ulysses Owens Jr., Ron Carter, Randy Napoleon, Kiyoshi Kitagawa, Stefon Harris and Rodney Whitaker. A graduate of Manhattan School of Music and Michigan State University, he has studied with Phil Markowitz, Fred Hersch, Garry Dial and Xavier Davis. Currently Taghavi lives in Michigan where he is an Adjunct Professor of Jazz Piano at Hillsdale College and can be seen playing with Rodney Whitaker’s band and various groups at Michigan’s leading venues.
While based in Richmond, VA, Kofi Shepsu is currently one of the most in-demand young drummers nationwide. He studied with Buster Williams and Kendrick Scott and has performed with up-and-coming jazz sensation Benny Benack III at the legendary Smalls Jazz Club. He has also worked extensively with trumpeter John D’Earth and saxophonist Charles Owens, among many others. He is a member of the Brooklyn-based Friendship Trio with pianist Jenny Xu and bassist Ben Feldman.