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Having begun in 1996 as an intended quartet for the Knitting Factory's What Is Jazz Festival, "B/C/D/E" soon dropped the "B" when cornetist and trumpeter Bobby Bradford was unable to attend for financial reasons. Ever since, "C/D/E"or Andrew Cyrille, Mark Dresser and Marty Ehrlichhas maintained the spirit of Bradford's and John Carter's music in their performances. As a strong influence on all three members of the cooperative, Bradford's influence is still felt in the music as they play tunes performed previously with him or written in honor of him.
C/D/E combines the talents of leading free jazz musicians who, ironically, base their compositions upon sentiment and acknowledgement throughout this album. Perhaps the most affecting track is the one not written by a member of C/D/E: reedman Tom Chapin's "Aeolus." The trio recalls their friend through a heartfelt evocation of his talent, Ehrlich's flutework singing in conjunction with Dresser's bowed dynamism and Cyrille's dramatic brushed colors. "For Bradford" pays tribute as well, but in a freer approach that involves Ehrlich's statement of the loosened, elastically metered theme, Dresser and Cyrille filling in the pauses with rippling flow.
Cyrille's "Aubade" follows the same path as Ehrlich and Dresser develop the loping theme. It allows for space between the phrases so that the dance of Cyrille's tapping of the cymbal can characterize the tune as one that's lighter and more inviting than others. Ehrlich's "2 For Cyrille" provides the opportunity for the drummer to create his own environment through the development of his own musical creation, separate from but joined to the tune. After Ehrlich comes in on alto sax, it's apparent that the three of them are approaching the composition from their own perspectives, each of them perceiving separate value from the same basic work of art. As with all of the other tracks, even as they assert their individuality, the trio never really accompanyies one another as much as enhances the other's improvisations to accomplish a unified whole.
Dresser's "BBJC," written earlier for John Carter, establishes a swing that's more implicit than in the other tunes. Ehrlich starts the piece with a blues-influenced cadenza containing a slight bending of notes and the elaboration of a three-note pattern before it evolves into a propulsive romp, Dresser alternates a walking bass line with one that staggers the beat and yet another that pushes the tune into double time.
Ehrlich's "Point Of View" and "View From The Point" reflect one another by title, but assume disparate musical attitudes. "Point Of View," with Ehrlich on clarinet, gradually unfolds quietly as a story becomes clear through a linear development and elaboration, which lead to a final enlightenment. On the other hand, "View From The Point" starts on a jagged edge as Ehrlich punctuates with stuttering repetition and uninhibited cries, the intensity building to a free expression embellishing the motive with a brightness shifting from glaring intensity to subdued illumination.
Recorded in 1998, C/D/E finally allows us to hear this trio of free jazz masters in an unfettered improvisational environment. The essences of the tunes are freedom and respect, and C/D/E's approach is as personal and unpredictable as the musicians themselves.
Track Listing: View From The Point, Aeolus, BBJC, A Simple Melody, For Bradford, Aubade, C/D/E, Point Of View, AM 2 1/2, 2 For Cyrille
Personnel: Marty Ehrlich, soprano & alto sax, clarinet, flute; Mark Dresser, bass; Andrew Cyrille, drums