Rick McLaughlin Trio: Study Of Light (2003)
This young trio comprises a key section of the highly versatile Either/Orchestra. Anyone familiar with that big band's adventurous experimentation will find much to like in this spinoff. Curiously, I find this trio even more likeable than Either/Orchestra, which for all its stellar soloists seems top-heavy to me, with more quirky musical ideas than the musicians know what to do with over an album's length.
On Study of Light bassist McLaughlin, pianist Greg Burk, and saxophonist Jeremy Udden create a starkly sparse yet deeply rich sound, strikingly effective on covers identified with the complex textures of a big band. Their versions of Ellington's "Isfahan" and Eberhard Weber's "Colours of Chloe" are stunning because of the emotional bite this tiny trio with an enormous presence imparts to these lushly arranged compositions.
The trio also seems comfortable with impressionistic classical music, opening this disc with a moody arrangement of part of a Ravel string quartet, and highlighting the Debussy-isms in "Colours of Chloe." Each trio member can also forcefully swing, proof of which is charmingly given in their lighthearted take on "Without A Song."
This is an immensely serious project in the still neglected arena of drummerless "chamber jazz," yet this group conveys a youthful good humor quite counter to the dour doldrums other found in recordings of "third stream" and "free jazz" groups using similar instrumentation. Study of Light is packed with strong interplay among musicians who know they are on a fresh trail. The excitement they experience with their musical discoveries illuminates this captivating set.
Track Listing: 1. Assev Vif - Tres rhythm, 2. Ink, 3. Marina, 4. O.P., 5. Blink To Be, 6. Delicate, 7. Colours of Chloe, 8. Isfahan, 9. Without A Song
Personnel: Rick McLaughlin: bass, Greg Burk: piano, Jeremy Udden: saxophone.