If ever there was a threesome that hankered after being a quartet, it's Trio 3
. Though working as a self-contained unit since 1986, pianists have often supplemented the core triumvirate, and in fact one has augmented each of the group's previous three recordings. Now Jason Moran
fills the piano stool on RefractionBreakin' Glass
, adding to an already heady brew. From bassist Reggie Workman
's youthful stint with John Coltrane
, to drummer Andrew Cyrille
's 11-year tenure with piano iconoclast Cecil Taylor
, via saxophonist Oliver Lake
's pioneering work as a founder member of the illustrious World Saxophone Quartet
, their experience touches on many of the major innovations over the last 50 years. That makes Moran a good match: he studied with three great teachersJaki Byard
, Andrew Hill
, and Muhal Richard Abrams
but has found his own critically-acclaimed path, strong on rhythmic ingenuity.
In the summer of 2012, Moran joined the group for a week long residency at NYC's Birdland before going into the studio. That explains the tightness which pervades the ten cuts which constitute the program. It's a collective effort. No-one rests on their laurels. Each contributes tunes, which cover a wide stylistic spectrum, creating a winning mix of free form abstraction, kinetic riffs, and inventive interplay, studded with biting solos. Part of the joy of Trio 3 lies in the way even the relatively straightforward numbers feel on the edge of falling apart in a welter of delicious dissonance and arhythmic clatter, but never quite do. Case in point is Workman's classic "Summit Conference": it opens in a swirling rubato from which the theme emerges out of nowhere, before parting for a series of adventurous features. Likewise on Lake's "All Decks," time expands and contracts, but even when piano and alto saxophone lock, Cyrille combines grace and power in an unfettered commentary.
On the title track, they pull off no mean feat in marrying Moran's ominous lop-sided vamp with Lake's recitation of a wry poem about his mother's drive to make good. Unlike many combinations of jazz and verse, it bears repeated listening, due to the reedman's matter-of-fact delivery and the essential human truth it conveys, not to mention his incisive squealing alto. Other highlights are too many to recount, but include Workman's careening woody bowing on his lilting "Cycle III," Cyrille's throbbing tattoo on "Listen" which sets the scene for a call and response, presaging a procession of supercharged solos, and his propulsive homage to the late saxophonist David S. Ware on the surging "High Priest." After such a successful amalgam, ranking alongside gems like Time Being
(Intakt, 2006) and The Berne Concert
(Intakt, 2009), it should be no surprise that Trio 3 hooked up with yet another rising star of the keyboard in Vijay Iyer
at Birdland in July 2013. There may yet be more collaborative entries to look forward to in the band's discography.
Personnel: Oliver Lake: alto and sopranino saxophone, voice; Reggie Workman: bass; Andrew Cyrille: drums, voice; Jason Moran: piano.