5-Man Trio,
You Do the Math
(self-produced, 2003)

You know how you can tell a band by its "sound"? Just a couple of notes, a particular musical instrument or a bar of vocals -- you've already figured out who you're listening to, even if you don't know the song. Well, with the 5-Man Trio, you'll probably NEVER have that experience, especially after listening to their debut album You Do the Math. I had to check my CD-player with the song list just to make sure I hadn't accidentally put in a compilation album.

The band literature describes the 5-Man Trio as "original, eclectic, versatile, multi-faceted, intellectual, entertaining, satirical, sarcastic acoustic-ish, rockjazzfolk-ish, procountry & antiwestern with a world beat." While they must have thumbed through Roget's Thesaurus a few times, their description is pretty dead-on. Usually, this type of total inconsistency from song to song would lead towards an unfavorable review. But in the case of You Do the Math, the eclectic randomness is a very enjoyable experience.

There's a bit for everyone in this album. If you like roots rock, you'll probably like "Live to Love" or "Silverton." If you want more of a jazz sound, there's a bit of experimental jazz in "Gravity is a Harsh Mistress" and bluesy jazz in "Lifetime Phase" (which has a great horn solo and nice background vocals). Or if you want something in the vicinity of jazz but with a bit more flavor, then check out the Cajun-spiced zydeco-influenced "Thingus Groovus," complete with conga, bongo, harmonica and tambourine.

If you like songs that lean towards the folk genre, there's a bit of that, too. "Evening Shadows Come" harkens traditional old-European lovelorn folks songs, especially with a wonderful flugelhorn accompaniment. "Crazy Dance" mixes folk with a tint of blues and a nice bass theme. "Desperately" mixes folk with a Native American world-music feel, specifically the percussive elements.

In an album in which the only interconnectedness is quality, there's one song that plays against the rest. "Perfect Man" sounds like a bad parody of beatnik art-house music. There are sudden stops for vocal accentuation followed by instrumental bursts mixed with a forced rhyme scheme. It's a jarring song that is waaaay out of left field (in a bad way). Still, though, only one bad track out of 16 is quite an accomplishment.

Musically speaking, the 5-Man Trio won't be painting themselves into any category corners. They're in the middle of the musical room, taking in a little bit of everything. The end result is a wonderful eclectic album for all to enjoy. So, if you don't know what kind of music you're in the mood for, you're probably in the mood for You Do the Math.

- Rambles
written by C. Nathan Coyle
published 13 November 2004