Nutria is the New Orleans-based trio of tenor saxophonist/overall reedist Bryon Asher, bassist Trey Boudreaux, and drummer Shawn Myers. The three got together in 2014 at the graduate program at the University of New Orleans and have found that kind of matching sensibility that just shows in their playful, easygoing, but not in the least drolly pleasant music. Together, they have a rich, round sound with an immense charm worth checking out with their second album together, Call to the Air, out now on Breakfast 4 Dinner Records.
There’s a sense of contemplation in this album. They don’t get overly riled up, but they’re most certainly not complacent. Shawn Myers’ drums, particuarly for his extended solo at the beginning of the explorative title track, are roomy, loving the richness of the tom and everything it has to say. His interplay with Byron Asher on saxophone is the main point of attraction here. Asher is an anchor here, not that Trey Boudreaux isn’t on bass throughout the album, for he most certainly and impressively is), however Asher goes “out” only so far, playing with a great deal of restraint that makes this music oddly accessible in the midst of its range. The three create a music that’s steps away from the “straight-ahead” sensibility, but it’s definitely not in the free territory. Everything here works.
Call to the Air is an album that clicks just right. Even its song lengths seem to indicate that it’s just warming up as the back end of the album seems to sprawl out even further to some particularly cool jams, while still never overstaying its welcome. It’s just something about the energy of Nutria where this particular pocket of there’s is just so charming to stay in while knowing everything about its sense of adventure where it knows just exactly where to go and exactly how long to stay there. It’s weird thinking about discipline while hearing Bourdreaux solo, but one knows he can’t play that way without being a multifaceted player who gets around and thus can be so pitch perfect in the midst of this well-balanced trio, but balance is a crucial element of discipline, so there that quality resides, all while his rich bass walks smoothly about.
This is an album about balance and discipline and careful adventurism and simplicity and so many other qualites, but really it’s about music. It’s about well-made music that’s really quite nice to listen to. That’s the most important thing. It’s about three folks — a saxophonist, a drummer, and a bassist — who sound good together and like playing together and decided to make a thing of it, like so many groups in New Orleans. Also like so many groups in New Orleans, they really know how to do this thing right.
Byron Asher – Tenor Saxophone, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet
Trey Boudreaux – Bass
Shawn Myers – Drums
Nextbop Editor-in-Chief Anthony Dean-Harris hosts the modern jazz radio show, The Line-Up, Fridays at 9pm CST on 91.7 FM KRTU San Antonio and is also a contributing writer to DownBeat Magazine and the San Antonio Current.