While the trumpet is often a lead instrument in jazz, trumpet trios like this one, and even trumpet quartets, are not that common. The trumpet is a demanding instrument. To play it within an ensemble places a large physical and musical burden on the trumpeter - so that only an unusually forceful musician like Raphe Malik can make a successful go of a trumpet trio. Storyline is one such success.
Malik is joined by two other masters: bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Cody Moffett, a son of the great Ornette Coleman Trio drummer, the late Charles Moffett. That's particularly strong backing: each of the three is a strong individual voice - so strong that each can carry this music alone, and together they're especially powerful.
Moffett's presence invites a comparison with the legendary trio of which his father was a member, since the music here, like that of Ornette, is free, but not anarchic. Like Ornette's music, much of this music is blues-based. In fact, several tracks, including "Minimal Blue" and "First Valve Blues" are fairly straightforward blues workouts, with McBee walking on the bass as emphatically as Leroy Vinnegar. Others, like "Era" and "Ago (Go)," traffic heavily in blues motifs. Malik's trumpet is as tonally anchored as Coleman's alto, and both can (although in quite different ways) range into quite unexpected territory and realize the full possibilities of their instrument while always remaining within an overall jazz framework.
But Malik's trumpet playing is unique for its breadth. Like no one else, he has perfected certain techniques on the trumpet that approximate saxophone multiphonics. He never uses these for sheer sound effect, but dynamically integrates them into his phrases. He is a superb, incendiary performer who should be more widely heard. Let's hope this extraordinary disc will win him some of that recognition. Highly recommended.
Raphe Malik, tpt; Cecil McBee, b; Codaryl "Cody" Moffett, d.