Review: SOTL’s Grand Hotel
SOTL – Grand Hotel:
Guitar : Florent Athénosy
Drums : Andy Shoniker
Bass : Jordan Scannella
SOTL is an instrumental trio based in NYC, although the members hail from three different continents. Because of this, the band likes to playfully call their union a ‘conspiracy’.
Florent Athénosy grew up in Paris and started music at a very early age. After classical guitar studies, he began educating himself in various styles of music and started playing with a wide range of bands and working as a studio musician. As his interest in both composition and jazz developed, he went on to study at the Berklee College of Music where he earned a degree in composition in 2001.
Brooklyn-based Jordan Scannella is a professional bass player, composer, producer and emcee who has toured the world spanning the spectrum of music, from house music to jazz and beyond in a host of successful bands.
Andy Shoniker, a native of Toronto but now based in Brooklyn, is an active sideman and session player in both cities. He is also one half of the over the top rock duo Grand Opening and one third of SOTL. Andy has worked with Grammy winners to bar bands and everything in between.
Grand Hotel (2017, Alter-Nativ) is their second studio album, following 2014’s Happy Mother’s Day. The leadoff track Beyond is a short moody piece that, as it turns out, sets the mood for what is to come. The lush reverb and slight chorusing of the clean-ish guitar tone is a good contrast with the angular sound presented by the song’s chords (just for the sake of reference, imagine Wayne Krantz meets Eric Johnson’s clean sound).
Next up is Warm-Up, which has busy “New York-style” drums and a nice thematic head. The group’s chops and sense of harmonic adventure really become apparent here. Third Set switches things up with a bluesier guitar feel and an envelope-filtered bass tone. The title track Grand Hotel reveals the percussive stabs and use of open guitar strings that, like the drum sound mentioned previously, reminds one of the NYC jazz scene of the last 15 years.
Song for Lo contains inventive use of dissonance matched with a groove from the rhythm section that is unique and powerful. Outtake delivers more of the same, with a climax and resolution that gives this track a bit of a boost. The final tune, What We Do, brings the album to a satisfying close.
Grand Hotel feels at once familiar and new. It grooves hard and employs fairly interesting harmonic devices. The tones are organic and soulful. A recommended disc, especially for fans of the New York guitar trio thing.