Above: Trumpeter Will Gilbert and bassist Elsen Price joined composer and flautist Keyna Wilkins for this hour-long set. Featured image: (l-r): Keyna Wilkins, Will Gilbert and Elsen Price perform the improvised work with NASA footage and sound material, ‘Solar Flare’. Images: Paul Nolan.

The Ephemera Trio are on a mission. To explore the possibilities of scored and stream of consciousness improvised works reflecting our earthly sensibilities and to comment on celestial phenomena about us.

In this concert, an ongoing outlook and in previous recordings they voyaged via imaginative, boldly shaped, well balanced works mostly by pianist and flautist Keyna Wilkins. The scored works performed were a mixture of new music and works formerly recorded on the group’s two CD releases. Several works heard are published in Australia by Wirripang and some have already been preserved in the Australian Jazz Real Book.

The work Lunar Eclipse early on in the programme set an ethereal tone for the evening. Reference to the recent lunar landscape mapping expeditions by NASA kept the programmatic element fresh for us. We felt immediately in this Seymour Sound Lounge event the integrity of this talented trio’s skilful illustrative flow. The slick and tight ensemble focus and controlled excitement of the soundwaves and textural undulations were something to be swiftly amazed at.

It was a treat to lose yourself in the newness of the musical accent in this intimate venue. Projections added another dimesion to the musical discussions and building of soundscape in improvised as well as scored-work pieces.

Interesting glimpses of driving rhythmic jazz like riffs, parallel chorusing motions and rhythmic reiterations were here melded into an interesting collection of conversation from the trio.When it seems in life or music like we have we have nowhere else to go there is always the mysterious , half-understood frontier of space. The mission to find a way to describe this in music is an ongoing one for this group, but one it is succeeding at.

Some very clever music set pioneering emotion, the evocation of surfaces, orbits and our view of extra-earthly bodies spinning via Ephemera Trio’s  multi-faceted musical telescope. The blend of trumpet, flute, keys and bowed bass is progressive and elusive,with the extended techniques and modern timbral effect these players easily employed.

This event was perfect Seymour Sound Lounge fare, with impro numbers enhanced by the inclusion also of scored works. These compositions by Keyna Wilkins streaked across our night skies, dazzling, twisting and turning, taking us for quite brief but memorable excursions where momentum and flight defied the predictable gravitas of safer gigs with a much lower amount of new music on board.

Above: Ephemera Trio performed improvised and fully scored works at this event. Image: Paul Nolan.

With NASA imagery behind these performers, and titles explained for us such as Lunar Eclipse, Perseid Meteor Shower, Stellar Paralax, Titan Tango  and Callisto. These shiny  new vignettes full of modern expressive freedoms were enthusiastically presented, providing new and deep atmospheres in bold expressive trips, forming a wash of soundtrack to the celestial environment about us.

At times even more vivid and forever less static than the NASA images projected at the rear of the stage the scored tone poems and chillingly, widely spaced lines in improvised segments spoke with a unique voice and an inimitable ensemble energy. Fractured, developed minimalism was heard juxtaposed with the more ancient musical ideas of longer melodic arcs, rhythmic repetition and soaring lines over accompaniments on bass or piano.

Sonorities produced by the trio’s trumpet element from Will Gilbert supplied gaseous intonations as well as firmer anthem-like lines. These were veiled with an extended, unearthly restraint. This well-paced and colourful contribution showcased this musicians great range, artistry and technique.

It was impossible to do anything but enjoy the surprising song  and contribution to the trio that this endearing range brought. When finally heard in more familiar, fuller brass tone we were flooded in light that obliterated  human vulnerabilities when pitted against the immense.

In many of the works, Wilkins’ agile, airy piano work formed precise, segmented rings of momentum around the Ephemera Trio planet.  Some stunning non-spherical figurations and driving patterns saw Keyna Wilkins shine bright as a mood-infused player with a talent from writing and tracing compact, out-of-the-box melodic arrows and textures that rocketed into the stratosphere-or at least far from the launching pad of predictable textbook allocation of roles for an ensemble.

Elsen Price’s register-bursting, final-frontier-worthy articulations and wash of tone colour for his bass utterances included some sounds alien to regular jazz or contemporary classical idiomatic playing. The supply of hazy-to-solid, breakout-spacewalk shapes plus modern hues to the group kept this gifted bassist very busy indeed. Wilkins’ composition Full Moon for solo bass was a highlight of the event. It was one of many items to celebrate ground-breaking manipulation of material and instrumental dexterity for pictorial good in the space.

Elsen Price’s bass lines, such as the eloquent opening to Earth above Wilkins’ cyclical accompaniment creation delighted. The successive entries in which melodic expansion by trumpet changed the course of our listening flight so smoothly contiued to impress throughout the programme.
Wilkins’ flute work, including breathy, keyed effects and lingering, pulse-defying tones have wowed listeners in Sydney and the globe.

This concert’s evocative playing, music and myriad of space-light imagery had a great impact. The versatility and resourcefulness of composer Wilkins and crew took us into a twisting orbit which was infinitely enjoyable. I for one reached for the stars-or at least for streamed Ephemera Trio albums following the gig. We wait on base for the launch of the next album – to look up at Ephemera Trio’s modern meditations with effective, thrilling compositions safely suiting this group’s special sound.