Nutria is a jazz trio founded in 2014 by UNO grads Byron Asher, Shawn Myers and Trey Boudreaux. This second album from the group, Call to the Air, moves into the more meditative side of their personality. All songs were composed by either reedman Asher or drummer Myers. There is plenty here for the educated ear to savor, but it never gets so far out that it would lose the layperson. What they’re doing is very deliberate and though it seems simple and natural, it could’ve easily been mishandled by musicians of a lesser caliber.
The obvious stylistic comparison would be to Ornette Coleman with flavors of Dexter Gordon from Asher’s dark tenor tones, but that would be too simplistic. The true virtue of what is going on here is that these fellas aren’t being self-indulgent. Even when the individual players take time to spread out, like in “Shackleton’s Hill” when Asher plays most of the tune with only minor embellishment from the others, or in the epic twelve-minute title track, “Call to the Air,” which features an ever-building drum solo from Myers, they stay true to the mood and the direction of the piece. They play the music, not the instrument.
The production by Carson Thielsen and David Hart is excellent. They make Boudreaux’s bass actually sound like a live bass, which is a tough thing to do. The album artwork by Terry Grow is particularly captivating—a snowy, desolate landscape that seems to echo the solemn mysteriousness that weaves throughout the album.