Multi-piano recordings tend to be dicey affairs at best. The usual problem is that players don't respect open space enough with all those keys at their disposal. This effect is usually exacerbated in a free improv setting, where no rules exist to keep everyone at bay. Fortunately, 3 Pianos manages to avoid these problems, which is a tribute to the aesthetic awareness of the three pianists involved. Since the piano is at some level always a percussion instrument, the possibilities for interwoven rhythmic figures are nearly limitless. At the same time, the piano has the distinction of chordal expression, and that means harmonies (implied or explicit) can be overlaid and manipulated ad infinitum. Within this context of shifting interaction, repetition is at a minimum, and any kind of call-and-response operates at a higher abstract pull-and-tug level. Nobody can be pinned down and everybody plays with an ear toward accenting and shifting the greater whole.
The dozen pieces on this disc consist of various permutations of trio and duet formats: free trio improvisations, duo improvisations, and an interesting set of three short trio pieces with compositional restrictions. Of the three players on this disc, Veryan Weston stands out as the strongest team player. He seems to have a special talent for recognizing the flow of ideas and building tangents which intersect and reinforce the overall momentum but do not distract from it. Steve Beresford, on the other hand, has a penchant for lyricism and an intermittent desire to bring the intensity of the group to explosive levels; his voice seems to occupy the extremes of the dynamic and emotional range. In the middle lies Pat Thomas, who has an open ear for rapid tonal and rhythmic shifts and does not hesitate to share. He's the voice of disorder and abstraction, if any one player deserves that title within this group.
As the disc proceeds, the pianists get together within each possible duo configuration, and these pieces end up especially revealing about the contrasts in musical personality between the players. The three duo pieces also provide some respite from the relative complexity of trio operations. But in the end, it's the trio pieces that make this disc special: because they work. And that's something special in the world of improvised piano music.
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