High, shrill, and alone, Robbie Lynn Hunsinger’s soprano saxophone provides an apt opening to a culturally vibrant musical tale. Signifying the solitude of the individual in the rich complexity of the universe, double reed master Hunsinger is joined by multi-instrumentalist Joseph Jarman and bassist Tatsu Aoki on Trio, an intensely contemplative album that traverses tremendous terrain with ten tracks.
The music, incorporating variations of eleven different wind instruments and a dappling of percussion, tethered by Aoki’s thoughtful bass, instantly transports the mind into contemplation of that which is untranslatable. The trio communicates through the careful unveiling of myriad textures. An ordained Buddhist monk, Jarman’s deep, throaty vocals add meditative rhythms to his quick but careful bass flute in “Dryad.” A rattle creates exotic atmosphere for English horn to snake its way around tinkling Chinese small cymbals on “Cape Of Needles.”
Inspired by Italo Calvino’s 1972 book about Marco Polo’s journeys through Asia, Invisible Cities, Trio conjures ancient traditions and landscapes from the East. On “Larsen B,” Hunsinger’s cautious, timid silver clarinet winds its way slowly around Jarman’s rapidly dripping thumb piano. Each note Aoki plays on his bass seems to vibrate infinitely like the ripple of water expanding outward from a drop of rain in the calm waters of a Japanese garden, or the call of a raven echoing through the Himalayas.
Passionate for oboe variations, Hunsinger incorporates the Chinese sona and the Indian shenai. Unfamiliar to Western ears, the high-pitched sona creates a piercing sorrow in “Hornswoggled.” Jarman’s clanking percussion, and Aoki’s bowed bass contrast each other and form a dense cushion for the warbling double-reed horn, like a guardian angel waiting with arms spread. “Procession” features both sona and shenai. Layered above Jarman and Aoki’s bass clarinet/bass motif, the Asian instruments tumble along adding brightness and color.
With their first project together as a trio (Hunsinger played with both Aoki and Jarman in duo settings), the three have established a tiny group with a profoundly vivid magnitude for expression.