Matt Renzi: The Cave (2006)
I've always approached a piano-less trio like this sax/bass/drums combo with at least some trepidation. In the world of free jazz, it is, more or less, a rather standard pairing of instruments that allows for greater freedom without the chorded support from piano (or guitar). Within mainstream jazz, the work of Sonny Rollins (notably during his Blue Note days), Joe Lovano, and at least some recordings by Joe Henderson present one side of the spectrum in which the saxophonist is able to overcome the "missing" instrument.
Fear not, for Matt Renzi is a melody player. And although he takes the music outside on occasion, this album is largely an opportunity for the saxophonist/clarinetist to display his ability to tell a story and embellish compositions, with the able assistance of bassist David Ambrosio and drummer Russell Meissner.
Renzi's eight original compositions are based upon his travels to Japan, Italy, New York, and Italy over a four-year period. Renzi also studied Indian vocal music with R.A. Ramamani. Each of the compositions is intended to convey Renzi's memories of his travels, and since he has been moving about with Ambrosio and Meissner for some years, they have also incorporated their musical feelings into the album. The one tune that I can most identify with is the frenetic, very New York-based "Stand Clear (of the Closing Doors)."
Renzi's approach is warm, rather than a brittle, and he makes the individual compositions into melody statements. Meissner's arsenal of percussive and drumming techniques provide the springboard for Renzi's inspired solo work, while Ambrosio's sympatico bass supplies an ongoing cushion for the saxophonist.
Track Listing: Poison Ivy; The Rice Shed; Stand Clear(of the closing doors); Stones For Sand; In Circles; Faces and Places; To The Cave; Three Stories.
Personnel: Matt Renzi: tenor saxophone, clarinet; David Ambrosio: bass; Russell Meissner: drums, percussion.