Eric Lilley Trio, Follow Up Review
by: Ferell Aubre
Eric Lilley is an American pianist, keyboardist, bandleader, and composer born in Corona, California. Lilley graduated from Berklee College of Music in Boston in 1978 and started his career with Atlantic recording artists, The Energetics, followed by joining Herb Reed of the original Platters. Eventually settling in Denver, Colorado, Lilley quickly became an in-demand player on the local jazz, blues, rock, and funk scene. In 1985 Lilley formed the jazz fusion group You Guys, which released Play de Doh on ITI Records and received favorable national airplay leading to festival dates at the Telluride, Breckenridge, and Vail jazz festivals, among others. The nineties’ decade found Lilley touring out of Nashville and doing theatrical work in Branson, Missouri. He was keyboardist and staff arranger for the Shoji Tabuchi Show and served in the same capacity at the Lawrence Welk Show in 1999. In 2005, Lilley formed Twin Goat Music and released Songs Without Words as a solo piano disc. In 2020, Lilley released Joie de Vivre. Now The Eric Lilley Trio is releasing Follow Up, their second release in less than a year. On Follow Up, Lilley presents nine original compositions and is again joined by Mark Diamond on bass and newcomer Dru Heller on drums. Jose Espino guests on percussion for “Bud Bop” and “Leanin,'” turning the trio into a rhythmic quartet.
“Bud Bop” opens the album with a jaunting Latin composition presented by the quartet. Lilley’s melody has elements of the great pianist Bud Powell’s style. For the solo, Lilley is keeping a steady chordal pattern as his lines float through the harmony. The second chorus is given more rhythmic activity as Lilley switches to the upper register on the piano. The bridge’s swing feel adds diversity to the flow of the composition. Heller trades with the quartet to build an impressive climax. Lilley’s composition and playing are balanced and well-rooted in the jazz tradition.
“The Hollow Way” is a sophisticated melody that flows over a brisk swing feel. Diamond’s big woody bass sound fills the airwaves during his solo. Lilley and Heller are interactive with their support. Lilley’s soloing is soulfully in the pocket as he explores the rhythm changes with style and ease. His vocabulary is modern with a healthy helping of straight ahead.
Follow Up is nine tracks that show Lilley’s musical gift for composition and performing overtly. The trio and quartet create an atmosphere that ripples and slithers with the authentic sounds of jazz. The sonic palette of Follow Up flows from straight-ahead swingers to cinematic introspective ballads. Although the compositions provide many opportunities for the players to show their improvising smarts, Lilley’s compositions are also very imaginative amalgams of modern and traditional jazz sounds. Follow Up is a stirring collection of shifting rhythms and unexpected melodic exploration, all formed in the rich jazz tradition’s language.