Spanish drummer Xavier Reija‘s previous trio was a fusion outfit with guitarist Dusan Jevtovic and bass guitarist Bernat Hernandez, as heard on Resolution (MoonJune Records, 2016) and Live at RZZ Barcelona (MoonJune Records, 2016). He turns to a traditional acoustic piano trio here, with pianist Nitai Hershkovits and bassist Pau Lligadas. There’s a different kind of energy in this band, but there is energy aplenty.
That energy is especially audible on a track like “Capella (we still dance),” with its insistent, propulsive rhythm—it really does have a dance feeling, and bassist Lligadas turns in a fine solo. But even when Reija is using brushes, as he does right from the beginning on opener “Martina,” as well as “Childhood Dream” and the ballad “Thy Remembrance,” there is always a firm rhythmic push driving the music forward, often with a double-time feel bubbling under the surface of the music. He does not especially compose like a drummer (whatever that means); in a blindfold test, the natural inclination would be to assume that the pianist is the leader. The drumming isn’t overly busy, it’s just present to a greater than usual extent in a piano trio setting.
Both the paired tracks, “Capella (we still dance)” with closer “Capella” and “Reflections” with “Reflections (long trip)” share a common feel without being variations of each other. The acoustic setting places composing, drumming and band-leading into greater focus (without minimizing the tremendous contributions of his band mates). Anyone thinking of Reija as a fusion drummer will likely be pleasantly surprised. In a landscape littered with piano trio recordings, this one stands out for equal parts of lyricism and a special rhythmic drive.