Praise forTangria Jazz Group

"On their third release, the self-titled Tangria Jazz Group continues to impress. With lots of positive press from the San Francisco Bay Area this trio, led by drummer/composer Sheryl Mebane with keyboardist Simon Rochester and bassist Justin Hellman, is thoroughly interactive and entertaining.

Founded in 1997, Tangria Jazz Group has evolved with its most accessible album to date, with two originals and four standards. Eden Ahbez's “Nature Boy” is a good beginning for the album; a familiar tune that begins with some ruminative piano, morphing from a Latin pace to a tender ballad. Two important jazz standards follow: first, Johnny Carisi's “Israel,” followed by John Coltrane's formidable “Impressions,” which the group offers in smoking fashion. Two Wayne Shorter tunes are performed: the rarely covered “Isotope” is given a Fender Rhodes treatment by Rochester, while “Black Nile” provides a chance for Mebane to show off her ability to swing.

Two Sheryl Mebane compositions are showcased: “Teach Yourself to Live Elsewhere,” where she lays down a bluesy rhythm, and the extended “Bamako Love Walk,” with Mebane and Rochester aptly demonstrating their skill with African percussion.”

  --Michael P. Gladstone, All About Jazz


"The Tangria Jazz Group is a piano trio led by composer/drummer Sheryl Mebane that has become a fixture in the San Francisco Bay Area since being formed in 1997. This self-titled release is the band’s third album, containing a blend of straight-ahead jazz with a mild touch of fusion. A follow-up to the group’s well-received Mebanes Eleven: Tunes for Two, (Self Published, 2006), this effort presents five uniquely arranged standards and two Mebane originals.
     Pianist Simon Rochester leads the music with a command performance, also playing Fender Rhodes on Joe Henderson’s Isotope and the opening/oft heard Eden Ahbez standard, Nature Boy. The sound produced by this trio is quite good and the skillful play from bassist Justin Hellman is the glue that holds the combo together.
     Of the five standards on this disc, it is Coltrane's fiery Impressions that leaves perhaps the best impression here, with a swinging performance from everyone including crisp solos from Hellman and Mebane. Wayne Shorter's familiar Black Nile gets a fresh new read with some dark tones added for a distinctly different rendition.
    Mebane revisits Mebane's Eleven's Teach Yourself to Live Elsewhere with a new arrangement, and includes a percussive new score with the West African-influenced Bamako Love Walk, featuring the drummer and Rochester on African percussion.
    There are so many light combos in the jazz world today that it becomes increasingly difficult to work up a measure of excitement when you get a new recording from yet another trio. Then there are albums like the Tangria Jazz Group that make one appreciate that fact that such groups do, indeed, abound. Whether playing new originals or interpreting old standards, Sheryl Mebane makes you forget you're listening to another one of those trios by producing a special session of music that turns out to be quite appealing.”

  --Edward Blanco, All About Jazz


"Tangria Jazz Group is what happens when the academy gets bored in the classroom and decides to go blow in the studio. The trio’s first recording, Songs From Lady Bird was inspired by drummer/percussionist/physical chemist Sheryl Mebane’s jazz novel Lady Bird (Pearl Street, 2003). Mebane’s Eleven: Tunes for Two (Blastfamous, 2007) featured an abundance of original material and sidemen. The eponymous Tangria Jazz Group brags an abundance of standards with a couple of originals that shows the group maturing.
     The group kicks off its third offering with a schizophrenic “Nature Boy.” The piece begins as an airy piano solo that organizes itself (at the command of Mebane’s informed drumming) into a samba. Justin Hellman plays the acoustic bass, giving the piece a humid and organic sound. Simon Rochester delivers a beautifully conservative piano solo. A mainstream reading of John Carisi’s “Israel” follows, sporting an obtuse solo from Hellman.
     John Coltrane’s “Impressions” is given a tasteful treatment by the trio, played slightly upbeat and with an abandon that would have made Trane proud. Joe Henderson’s “Isotope” offers a not-often-selected standard for the band to play. Rochester gives an inspired improvisation, as does Hellman. Mebane’s drumming is always graceful and never overpowering. She possesses a very sensitive ear for herself and her band mates that helps make the Tangria Jazz Group one of the most viable and important trios performing today.”

  --C. Michael Bailey, All About Jazz

"Tangria Jazz Group's third CD is an impressive date, mixing fresh arrangements of familiar jazz classics, along with compelling originals. Simon Rochester's roundabout, well-disguised solo piano introduction to "Nature Boy" also has a bit of Latin flavor as the trio enters, plus an inventive bass line by Justin Hellman. John Carisi's "Israel," a favorite of the cool players of the 1950s, becomes more introspective in the trio's capable hands, yet no less driving. Interpretations of John Coltrane's "Impressions" often follow its composer's tendency to play lengthy variations, though Tangria Jazz Group finds a lot to say in far less time than typical. Drummer Sheryl Mebane not only has a light, distinctive touch, but she is the group's sole composer on this outing, including the funky "Teach Yourself to Live Elsewhere" and hip "Bamako Love Walk." Not exactly what one expects from a group where two of its members Rochester and Mebane have postgraduate degrees in physics and physical chemistry respectively."

4 out of 5 stars

 --Ken Dryden, All Music Guide


"The beautiful piano intro from Simon Rochester will probably make you think "Oh no, another "piano jazz" diatribe.  Well, I kind of got caught in that mode until the purely brilliant percussion from Sheryl Mebane (leader) & slinky yet vibrant bass from Justin Hellman kicked in on "Nature Boy".  The keyword for this whole album is ENERGY - talent not in the least condescending literally shines through!  When track 3, "Impressions" (my favorite on the album, by the way) kicks in, you'll know beyond the shadow of doubt that you've been fortunate enough to come across one of the most able jazz groups of the day... this IS today's music, unfettered & free, but still traditional enough to leave you with a pleasant glow each time you listen to the CD.  This turns out to be one of the most spirited trio albums I've heard yet this year!  The album clearly merits our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating - we're hoping to hear each & every one of their new releases, I can tell you!  This one goes in the car player, which (whether they know it or not) is a place of honor!  GET this one!"

  --Rotcod Zzaj, Improvijazzation Nation


"The Tangria Jazz Group has released a self-titled CD that focuses upon straight ahead and fusion influenced jazz. The multifaceted release features seven tracks of original and uniquely arranged standards, which also captures the very essence of each member's talent."

 --Sheldon T. Nunn, Jus Jazz


"I first heard of Tangria Jazz Group through their second album, Mebane's Eleven: Tunes for Two, which I felt was like a union of the musical mind, or minds in this case with Sheryl Mebane (drums), Justin Hellman (bass), and Simon Rochester (piano) creating the kind of jazz that sounds as if they are perfect for each other. The trio are back with a new one, self-titled this time around and upon hearing their rendition of "Nature Boy" it is obvious that that love of playing jazz and with each other has grown stronger. The song begins with the melody we all know and love before Rochester begins to travel and make his presence know, as if he becomes the nature boy himself, as Hellman holds things down by describing the scenery, and of course Mebane pulling everything together to let them know that she will set the pattern and keep things at a lively pace. There are countless versions of "Nature Boy" out there, but what I like about this is how it remains at a steady pace for the first half before it reaches the bass solo, and then it proceeds in half time, to become as sensual and mysterious as the song wants to be.

The mystery aspect is what makes this album great, in that you know what these three are capable of doing but you don't know what's going to happen next, which makes the listener want to concentrate on the music a lot more. One word that is mentioned often when describing the Tangria Jazz Group is "inventing", which for me means that they play things that sound as if they come out of the blue, with an "of the moment" intensity yet with the confidence in each other which results in the kind of playing that you can't stop listening to. One can hear that in well known pieces (John Coltrane's "Impressions" or Joe Henderson's "Isotope") or original songs (Mebane's "Teach Yourself To Live Elsewhere" and "Bamako Love Walk"). They are good in playing bebop and hard bop as they are in incorporating Latin sounds, or to make the kind of luxurious jazz that would be perfect in a romantic setting for a big budget Hollywood film, all without compromise. Well played jazz for fans who demand the best, and the Tangria Jazz Group are some of the best musicians out today."

 --John Book, The Run Off Groove #191


"Having just returned from Berkeley, I felt the timing was right to write about this trio from that hip Bay area enclave, whose third release has been heavy on my playlist for several weeks now. The sound of Tangria is a delicious blend of energy, intelligent sensitivity and creative expression that mirrors the vibrant community. The three musicians are obviously highly intelligent: drummer Sheryl Mebane received her doctorate and is working on her post doctorate project in environmental chemistry at UC-Berkeley and is a published author to boot!; pianist Simon Rochester is a physics doctorate candidate at the school, while bassist Justin Hellman is a graduate of the music school. Befitting their educational prowess, these brilliant young minds display exceptional talent at their musical output as well, but does this make the music sterile/clinical? Thankfully not, these three show considerable soul and an ability to swing, and the music is delivered with considerable youthful energy.

The three parties play extremely well together, presenting a compelling, yet straight-ahead take on a group of interesting covers and two Mebane originals. Rochester reminds one a bit of early Herbie Hancock with his nimbly rewarding oscillations, while Hellman delivers on the bass with his full deep tone and sharp intensity. Mebane holds it all together with her percolating melodic rhythms. A drummer who clearly understands both the importance of both the beat and the sound, Mebane's style has been described as in a Tony Williams vein, and I can't disagree. There is an Afro-rhythm underpinning to her precise, yet artistic playing. All three entertain with their pleasing solo turns.

The Tangria take (sweet, tangy and potent like tequila & sangria) on such classics as "Nature Boy," "Israel" and "Black Nile" will surely please most Jazz fans, while their high voltage version of "Impressions" will get your heart racing. The Mebane originals "Teach Yourself to Live Elsewhere" and "Bamako Love Walk" add a touch of Oakland groove and African percussion, while a version of Joe Henderson's "Isotope" is a pleasurable foray indeed. Tangria is an up and coming young Jazz group that is making waves on the West coast, and one can hear why on this release. I'm sure this a group that has a bright future ahead of them and they will garner a wider audience with high quality releases such as this one, which has the added bonus of being packaged in an eco-wallet, lightweight environmentally-conscious package."

 --Brad Walseth, Jazz Chicago


"An oddity in terms of both jazz stylings and band makeup, TJG is headed up by dreadlocked drummer Sheryl Mebane, an experimentalist in the arts of smoky-bar-jazz and African beats. Mebane original “Bamako Love walk” gets a Nigerian drum-jam dropped straight into it with some bass-spazz foreplay; as background for your wine-tasting excursion it presents the possibility for some comic herky-jerky glass spillage. Joe Henderson’s “Isotope” is apropos if for no other reason than Mebane’s post doctorate degree in chemistry – matter of fact, all three players (pianist Simon Rochester, representing the sum total of harmonic instrumentation, is kept busy as an octopus with twenty fingers on each tentacle) have advanced degrees, making this appear to be a fun outlet for a troupe of intelligentsia who simply enjoy jazz, period. "

--Eric Saeger, Skope Magazine (also featured in Spike


"Tangria Jazz Group consists of leader and drummer Sheryl Mebane and Simon Rochester on piano and Justin Hillman playing bass. Their new album is likeable solid jazz with covers and originals mixed for good measure.

"Nature Boy" gets an expansive, dreamy reading that really works. John Coltrane's "Impressions" gets an inspired, fluid treatment that proves the trios talent and proves how well they play together. Sheryl Mebane's own track "teach yourself to live elsewhere" is beautiful and is played sweetly and with great flair. Tangria Jazz Group is really a good band and this album is great."

 --Anna Maria Stjarnell, Luna Kafe


"This American group was founded in the year 1997. Its lifeblood and leader is Sheryl Mebane (drums, jembe) who is not only a musician, but also an activist absorbed in environmental chemistry education (doctorate in physical chemistry). Her colleagues have as well much to do with a science. Simon Rochester (piano, gankogui) is a physics researcher at the University of California in Berkeley, and Justin Hellman (bass) has a Bachelor's degree in music at the same university.

The third self-titled album was preceded by two other stuffs - "Songs from Lady Bird" (2003) and "Mebane's Eleven Tunes for Two" (2006). "Tangria Jazz Group" includes only two Sheryl's original tracks - "Teach Yourself to Live Elsewhere" and "Bamako Love Walk". The rest are covers of the likes of Eden Ahbez/David J. Janowiak, John Carisi, John Coltrane, Joe Henderson and Wayne Shorter. Most of them are silent, calm, quiet and reflective. They can produce a romantic mood assembled from gentle tones. The trio look for challanges both in science and music, and also maintain a resonable balance between these two worlds. They are able to bring the music closer to the nature and science. Just take a glance at a physics-titled "Isotope" and nature-labelled "Black Nile" to be convinced of it. The booklet includes a sentence: "The tunes on the CD capture some unique arrangements and the connections Tangria makes between world jazz, straight-ahead jazz and jazz fusion". Yes, there are many influences from Latin, African, traditional jazz, funk and even blues music, however it is uncomplete description. It is simply a scientifical jazz music, haha! Hope you catch my drift!"

 --Mikolaj Furmankiewicz, Department of Virtuosity


"A short time ago I reviewed an album by the Tangria Jazz Group called Mebane's Eleven. It was an interesting and fun album to listen to. Now the jazz trio has a new album out.

The new album is self-titled and comes in at just under forty minutes for a playing time. There are seven songs on the album with two of those being original compositions.

The members of Tangria Jazz Group are Simon Rochester, Sheryl Mebane and Justin Hellman. Simon is on piano, while Justin is on bass. Sheryl is the erstwhile leader of the trio and its drummer.

Nature Boy is the first song. This song has been performed all over the musical spectrum from John Coltrane through David Bowie in both instrumental and vocal formats. Here, the trio makes good use of Simon's wonderful piano as the focal point for the song.

Bill Evans and other jazz musicians have done a wonderful job with John Carisi's Israel . The bass work by Justin gets a nice solo on the trio's rendition of this great song. But Sheryl and Simon both get a chance to shine at different spots in the song.

I am a huge Coltrane fan. One of my favorite pieces of his is Impressions. The trio does a really decent cover of this wonderful tune.

The next song is an original composition by Sheryl. The title, Teach Yourself To Live Elsewhere, might seem a bit strange. But the content of the song, with very strong and vibrant piano, almost feels like a story about telling someone to move on and get lost. The bass and drum work is also interesting and entertaining on the song.

A really busy tune is Isotope. This is a Joe Henderson tune that makes good use of Justin's bass.

Bamako Love Walk is another Sheryl Mebane original composition. It is a pretty cool tune that makes you want to do some definite head bopping, toe tapping, body swaying movements.

The album ends with a terrific rendition of the Wayne Shorter tune, Black Nile.

The Tangria Jazz Group is a very, very talented jazz trio. This latest effort by the trio is one that is definitely being added to my jazz collection."

 --Bruce VonStiers, BVS Reviews


"For their third outing, you can tell leader Sheryl Mebane is getting more and more in touch with her inner Tony Williams, not such a bad thing as classic fusion is bubbling back and Williams was just under rated enough to be a good front for things to flow from without seeming like you’re ripping something off. An organic set that has a nice flow, this is a smart crew that doesn’t lock into one particular groove but makes a good name for themselves in the name of jazz.”

  --Chris Spector, Editor and Publisher of Midwest Record



"I did a mini review awhile back of this group's previous release with the confusing title. I think we decided the title was: "Mebane's Eleven, Tunes for Two" .

I see they've made things easier this time by using the band name as the album name as well. Whew.

Again, not a huge jazz connoisseur but I like this. It's perfect for dinner, cocktails, conversation, or just relaxing with the paper. Makes me feel all sophisticated-like. Lord knows I could use some of that in my life sometimes.

Some I know once said jazz music sounds like a bunch of instruments falling down the stairs. This isn't like that at all. It's melodic and rhythmic and really nice.

Oh and I want to greatly thank all of you who commented last time on how it's OK if I am not well versed in jazz, you made my day…week…month! Those die hard jazz fans can be mean."

 --Amy Lotsberg, Collected Sounds



"The Tangria Jazz Group as a trio extends the essence of classic Bill Evans and his doings. Their "Israel" is slower than Bill took it towards the end, but it partakes in his oblique soloing style, only refined and designed for this trios' own vision.
Rochester is good; I like his tendency to use rhythmic displacement and construct asymmetrical phrases. There's something there that hearkens back to Tristano, Kanitz, and Marsh, but it is so transformed as to become its own idiom. Drummer Mebane has infallible swing and bassist Hellman loosely complements with walking and solo styles that totally fit the vernacular at hand. They have chosen classic Jazz compositions with some care; their few originals are not really their strong suit. The classic "Nature Boy" is taken fairly straight and does not offer an exceptionally illuminating performance. Trane's "Impressions" does not ignite the fires of the original versions. It's mid-up without a whole lot of energy. Rochester's solo has the expected Tyner-like fourth voicings and it's not all bad. A few asymmetrical right hand lines distinguish the performance enough to remain of interest. It is nice to hear a trio rendition of Joe Henderson's old "Isotope" in a relaxed setting with decent piano and bass solos.
Shorter's "Black Nile" gets a good arrangement with an Afro feel and an added ostinato. Solos from all hands make for a true group effort, but nothing really startles. This is a trio that could go somewhere. So far they seem to be testing the waters and come off as a little tentative and not quite as locked in as they may be later on down the road. The disk has moments but in general it is not a standout."

-- Cadence


"Hello Sheryl,
    The trio sounds good. I'm impressed by the fluid groove here. Drums, bass & perc. work really well together particularly during the breakdown section. Nice going there with the idiomatic W. African character. The djembe licks sound good over the bass ostinato.
    The piano lines are nicely dispatched as well, but I think the piece could open with a strong thematic statement before heading off into solo territory. The piano articulates lines & harmonic voicings at the outset that certainly seem as if they have the potential for being developed into hooky thematic statements.
    The recording is broadcast quality in my opinion; you're in good shape on that score. Keep up the good work & all the best to you."

  --TAXI A&R (review of tune "Bamako Love Walk")