I'll venture a guess that the listing of the names on Borderlands Trio's cover is arranged in alphabetic order, Crump, Davis, then McPherson. That is because nothing in the performance reveals a leader, nor a dominant signature. For adventurous listeners, isn't that exactly what we want from our improvisors?
Let's stick with just Borderlands Trio. Asteroidea
is a collective effort with each of the musicians credited for all of the music, and all of the music is improvised. The extraordinary accomplishment here is the trio's ability to fashion clear, logical, and convincing song forms from naught. That certainly is attributable to the caliber of musicians heard here. Bassist Stephan Crump
is the pulse behind Vijay Iyer
's Sextet and Trio and he leads his own Rosetta Trio and Rhombal quartet. Pianist Kris Davis
is much in demand, performing with Eric Revis
, Ingrid Laubrock
, Tyshawn Sorey
, leading a trio, and releasing the impressive Duopoly
(Pyroclastic Records, 2016) a series of duos with eight musicians includingCraig Taborn
, Bill Frisell
, and Tim Berne
. Drummer Eric McPherson
is the motor that has made Fred Hersch
's trio with John Hébert
run since 2010. Asteroidea
opens with the nearly 30-minute "Borderlands," a piece that has more gears than an 18-wheeler. Davis' rhythmic opening precipitates a cascade of impulses. Her piano, which she utilizes often prepared with objects and tape, can be percussive or song-like. Then again, so can Crump's bass and McPherson's drums. Timekeeping is passed between the players, as is melody and direction. The much shorter (2:06) "Carnaval Hill" is more in the free jazz piano tradition with walking bass, energy drums, and garrulous piano. The trio might have utilized this as a reference point for pieces like "Flockwork." This piece features Davis' prepared piano morphing into a mechanical clock, the punchy "Body Waves" with Crump knocking on the wood of his bass, and McPherson handling melody, before all switches again into stark beauty. The sly grooves of "Polliwogs" are the background for popping piano notes and the the trio's eventual quieting march.
Borderlands; Carnaval Hill; Flockwork; Ochre; Body Waves; From Polliwogs.
Stephan Crump: bass; Kris Davis: piano; Eric McPherson: drums.