The Trio of Oz’s eponymous LP is all about navigating the subtleties of making a remake. The art of covering another musician’s tune is a perilous proposition, since fans require the new tune to be somewhat faithful to the thrill of the original, but still fresh enough so that we feel the new one brings us a unique experience. Doing this successfully, without veering too far in either direction, is a challenge.
The Trio of Oz seeks to meet this challenge by transforming recognizable pop and rock tunes into jazz compositions. By “recognizable”, I mean “popular”, as the source material here ranges from Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Possess Your Heart” and Coldplay’s “Lost” to Depeche Mode’s “In Your Room” and the Police’s “King of Pain”. Omar Hakim on drums and Rachel Z on piano form the “O” and the “Z”, respectively, of the band name’s “Oz”, with Maeve Royce’s acoustic bass rounding out the trio. The album lacks for nothing as far as musical talent, with Hakim’s deft handiwork on drums, Rachel Z’s rollercoaster waves of piano movements, and Royce’s rumbling bass lines. They even manage to add flavor to some of the original compositions with flourishing solos and tempo changes, as in the Trio’s revisit of “Angry Chair” by Alice in Chains.
The downside is that the Trio doesn’t always mesh as a single unit. At times, their collaboration seems more like three soloists playing at once, each one elbowing the other for coveted space. It’s not as chaotic in execution as it seems on paper, but it is feverish, hard to catch your breath, kind of like being tossed headlong into a cold, rushing rapid. There’s also the obvious loss of the idiosyncrasies of the lead voice in these songs, as gorgeous piano chords just don’t have the same resonance as, for instance, Sting’s signature vocal in “King of Pain”, or the mood in New Order’s electric, new wavy “Bizarre Love Triangle”.
Notably, “Det Tar Tid” by Swedish band Dungen works well in the Trio’s universe, and perhaps English speakers didn’t lose much in the musical translation. This, “Sour Girls” by Stone Temple Pilots, the aforementioned “In Your Room”, and the Morissey-penned “There Is a Light” are fine examples of the Trio’s teamwork.