If you are like me an you enjoy a good old-fashioned mystery – a musical one – then you will be entranced by MEM 3 and their second recording Circles. For starters, if anyone of the three members of the band know why MEM 3, no one’s saying (so far, at any rate). And then there’s the small matter of the music itself that starts with titles of intriguing whimsy: “Centrical”, “Quiescent” and “AFJ”. Okay, so MEM 3 stands for “Michael | Ernesto | Mark” or “Mark | Ernesto | Michael”. Take your pick and then add the numeral “3” after abbreviating your choice.
The three musicians are much too canny to pretend so they suggest that an early template for the band is EST, Bad Plus, Peter Erskine and Oscar Peterson. However, comparisons dissolve the instant the music begins and even in a song like “4ES”, which is dedicated to the memory of the legendary composer and pianist Esbjörn Svensson. Also, as a matter of interest, “Native Dancer” is nothing like a Wayne Shorter composition, although Shorter had an album of the same name. I suppose, the point I am making is that MEM 3 is no clone but, in fact, is a sharply original trio that thrives because of the strong, individual voices of each of the musicians.
Music, in the hands of Michael Cabe quickly becomes a white-hot volcano of intense expression, even when the music presents formidable technical challenges, all of which are surmounted almost with nonchalance, the pianist resolutely serving the score, not the mechanisms involved in performing it. “Olympic” is one such example. Bassist Mark Lau is equally explosive and has a particularly rewarding sense of rhythm, high sprung, light (and dark), and incisive and entirely secure, which pays its way not only throughout his own compositions (“Circles”, for instance) but also palpably so on “Olympic”. However, that’s not all… it’s not even a third of the story.
Ernesto Cervini is capable of inhabiting almost any kind of music, in any permutation and/or combination. Evidence of this is in the ensembles that he shepherds: The Ernesto Cervini Quartet, Myriad 3, Turboprop, Idioteque, Tetrahedron, Tunetown, and, of course, MEM 3. Listening to Cervini navigate through the massive body of work produced by all of these ventures as if they and their monumental grandeur were the most natural thing in the world leaves no doubt that this is a young musician to be watched, listened to, savoured and reckoned with. And that’s not even taking into account that Cervini is a multi-instrumentalist. For that, as the legend goes, is quite another story.
Track list – Centrical; Native Dancer; Circles; Quiescent; Shire Song; Anthem; Faith Of Our Fathers; Olympic; 4ES; AFJ
Personnel – Michael Cabe: piano; Mark Lau: bass; Ernesto Cervini: drums
Released – 2017
Label – Independent
Running time – 1:00:34