Fonda/Altschul/Bang: Live At The Iron Works, Vancouver (2006)
There aren't too many violin/bass/drums trios out there, and while the live setting might not be the ideal format in which to capture the music of this particular threesome, there's enough here to provoke the hope that this isn't just a one-off venture.
The moments when the trio thinks as one, notably after Altschul's four-minute solo introduction on "Tune For Barry," are countered in the negative sense by the music's longueurs, where at least one of the participants gives the impression of waiting for inspiration to strike while the other two accompany him until it does. This is arguably a problem inherent in the making of live recordings, even though there is much here to lend substance to the notion that the trio is the ideally sized unit for this semi-free idiom.
The fact that Billy Bang's violin will always have roots in a tradition that goes way beyond his musical preferences lends the music a rarefied air, as on "FAB," where the trio displays a cohesiveness that works against the idea that this was a pickup group. Both Fonda and Altschul also have pedigrees not lacking in depth, and as a section they serve notice of the fact that they are a rhythmic cartel of the first order. This is arguably best exemplified by Fonda's "Song For My Mother," where, after a lengthy solo introduction by the composer, they show an extraordinary aptitude for rhythmic nuance, the likes of which simply isn't acquired overnight.
On the trio composition "For Frank Lowe," however, the ear yearns for the presence of that underrated musician's tenor sax as a means for projecting greater tonal colour, if nothing else. The piece might almost serve as a springboard for group improvisation, as opposed to the theme-solos-theme routine, and though the rendition here is obviously heartfelt, I hope that this will not be the only time it makes it to record.
All in all, the division is roughly sixty-forty in favour of the music transcending the contention that you had to be there to get the most out of this group's efforts, which makes the thought that this might be the only time they record live together even more frustrating than usual.
Track Listing: FAB; For Frank Lowe; B.B.; Tune For Barry; For Don Cherry; Song For My Mother.
Personnel: Billy Bang: violin; Joe Fonda: bass; Barry Altschul: drums.