At some point in its history, free jazz differentiated into two forms: chamber music-style improvisation and in-your-face adventurism. Some free players prefer to use silence and nuance as tools for measured cadences, while others go for the all-out emotional release as a tool for catharsis. This trio is interesting because it includes elements from both traditions of music. C/D/E brings a revealing '98 set to light, with some regular head-solos-head type pieces, a few Ornette-ish quirks, and scattered chunks of collective improvisation. In a sense, it's a tribute to Bobby Bradford, who was unable to join the group for its original performance. (Each of these players shares playing experience with cornetist and composer Bradford.) So instead of the originally planned B/C/D/E quartet, we get to hear a reduced trio version instead. And it works quite well.
Andrew Cyrille, the "C" of the group, has a vibrant, rich approach to drumming that often pays little attention to a regular beat (though he can swing mightily or roll the brushes if he chooses to do so). Whatever the format, Cyrille builds combinations that literally explode and fragment into bits and pieces, which then swirl together until the next burst of energy. Select your intensity level from piece to piece.
Bassist Mark "D" Dresser has a sound quite firmly rooted in a linear conception. He plays frequent roles as protector of the pulse and keeper of the harmony. Both are welcome additions in this scenario. We hear rolling waves of bass settling out during periods of collective improvisation. And when he steps in front, Dresser celebrates the melody in an exuberant sense.
Reed player Marty "E" Ehrlich is a pleasant exception to free players more interested in tone than in melody. He approaches the instrument (especially the clarinet) as a tool for delivering clean lines, pursuing conflict and resolution as fundamental concepts from the midrange. One does not doubt at any point on C/D/E that Ehrlich is in total control of his horn.
The tunes offer a nice range of styles from relatively straightforward swing to all-out freedom, and moods from delicate melancholy (as on the wavering Chapin-inspired flute piece, "Aeolus") to pounding urgency (as on the frenzied title track). But generally these pieces hover around the mid-zone. Each player makes an equal contribution to this group, and all of them bring something special to C/D/E.
Personnel: Marty Ehrlich: soprano and alto saxophones, clarinet and flute; Mark Dresser: bass; Andrew Cyrille: drums.