Howard Riley Trio: Overground
Three of the tracks on Overground feature the full trio. "Pages" is a duo performance between Riley and Oxley; and "Recognition" is an overdubbed piece for Riley alone. After the vivid conversational tone of the trio opener, the piano/bass duo "Pages" offers stark, eerie contrast. Toward the beginning and the end of this piece, both Oxley and Riley make extensive use of electronics to alter their tone and volume. The result of all the knob-twiddling is that the native sounds of the piano and drums disappear in a vast abyss of artificial noise. Even by mid-'70s standards, the live electronics here really explode the sonic pallette. At times stereo separation is the only way to tell who's playing what. When Riley and Oxley unplug toward the middle of this piece, they contruct more clearly resolved (and frankly, much more coherent) musical structures. The fiery exchanges that evolve out of the atomic mist bear some resemblance to Cecil Taylor's recorded drum duets with Oxley; but Riley tends to use both hands to reinforce themes, rather than playing one off the other to elevate tension. His rhythmic sense has more focus and clarity.
The overdubbed piece "Recognition" presents Riley's experiments combining acoustic and electronically-modified piano sounds. To these ears, this piece wanders off course a bit too often. As a result, it ends up more a celebration of noise than an exposition of developing musical ideas.
As a document of three intuitive, creative musicians working at the highest level or interaction, Overground is a brilliant success. In the purely acoustic setting, very few trios have ever reached this degree of cohesion, flow, and discovery. The intermittent use of electronics on this disc may distract some listenersbut if nothing else, it bears intrinsic value as a historical document of early experiments with live electronics in a free improv setting. Regardless, there's more than enough diversity of material on this disc to satisfy even the shortest attention span.
Visit Emanem on the web.
Track Listing: Loops; Pages; Spliced; Recognition; Overground.
Personnel: Howard Riley: piano, electronics; Barry Guy: bass, electronics; Tony Oxley: percussion, electronics.
Record Label: Emanem
Style: Modern Jazz