Trio 3 + Irene Schweizer: Berne Concert (2009)
Almost without anyone noticing, Trio 3 has become one of the great working bands in jazz. That's not the default outcome of longevity: though saxophonist Oliver Lake, bassist Reggie Workman and drummer Andrew Cyrille first got together under the Trio 3 moniker back in 1992, they have become, if anything, a more cohesive unit over time. Their previous release, Time Being (Intakt, 2007), was one of their strongest, with an acute group aesthetic brought to bear on a fertile blend of testing compositions and compelling open improvisations. Berne Concert boasts a similarly fruitful amalgam, with Swiss pianist Irene Schweizer added for good measure.
All three core constituents are giants on their instruments and will probably be familiar to AAJ readers. Workman, of course, recorded with John Coltrane on several landmark sessions in the early 1960s, but has never rested on his laurels, continuing to be adventurous and in-demand as both leader and sideman. Though a ten year tenure with Cecil Taylor is one of the defining attributes in Cyrille's discography, he has lent his percussion wizardry to a veritable Who's Who over his career, performing with artists ranging from Coleman Hawkins, Illinois Jacquet and Mary Lou Williams to Kenny Dorham and many more. Lake has been a founding member of the World Saxophone Quartet since his early days with the St. Louis Black Artists Group, and now holds a preeminent place on the New York scene.
As Trio 3, Lake, Workman and Cyrille have worked with pianists in the past, most notably Geri Allen, but also in a quartet with Marilyn Crispell prior to the group's inception, so it is no surprise that they are readily able to absorb Schweizer into their collective embrace. What is more of a surprise is how naturally she fits in, sounding completely integrated into their soundworld. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the opening "Flow," where an exhilarating four-way dash is rendered all the more potent by her sometimes contrary, sometimes complementary contrapuntal lines, pinballing around Lake's sour-sweet alto. Fittingly as a veteran free improvisor, Schweizer features in extemporized duets with all three members, alongside compositions from each, and one collective improvisation in the hour-long program.
Cyrille's "Aubade" amply demonstrates the quartet's listening skills and the high quality group interaction which results. Everyone wields equal weight in an extended, spaciously lyrical exploration, where flurries of sound hang in delicious suspension, until they finally come together in a glorious theme statement. Other high points are the quick-witted duet "Phrases" where Lake and Schweizer morph from sanctified to rumbustuous to thunderous to puckish in just over five minutes; and the supercharged encore "WSLC" with Cyrille's polyrhythmic tumble, Schweizer essaying contrapuntal lines in each hand and Workman's grainy arco scrapes corralling Lake's pinched squeals and vocalized split tones. Trio 3 is sure to find new fans with Berne Concert: not a single track on this outstanding disc is less than stellar.
Track Listing: Flow; R. I. Exchange; Aubade; Phrases; Ballad of the Silf; Timbral Interplay; WSLC.
Personnel: Irene Schweizer: piano; Reggie Workman: bass; Andrew Cyrille: drums; Oliver Lake: alto saxophone.