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Andrea Grossi Blend 3 + Jim Black: Axes

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Andrea Grossi Blend 3 + Jim Black: Axes
When Sonny Rollins recorded "A Night At The Village Vanguard" (Blue Note, 1957) and later toured Europe in 1959, he was frequently asked about performing without a pianist. His saxophone, bass, and drums lineup was unconventional at the time, but it gave him the added freedom to explore his creative powers. Similarly, bassist Andrea Grossi's trio, Blend 3, which includes alto saxophonist Manuel Caliumi and electric guitarist Michele Bonifati, has taken a similar approach. On their previous releases Lцbok (We Insist!, 2019) and Songs And Poems (We Insist!, 2022), the trio recorded without a drummer and, much like Rollins, without a pianist as well.

All that changes with the addition of American artist Jim Black. Axes adds his drums but loses none of its originality and inventiveness. We can speculate that Grossi chose Black based on the drummer's work in dozens of contexts, especially with saxophonist Tim Berne's seminal band Bloodcount and his own quartet, Alasnoaxis. Black does not just keep the beat; he can paint landscapes with every minute detail included.

The album Axes starts off with a four-part suite, beginning with "Game," a math-rock rhythmic piece which packs a punch. This is followed by "Interlude," which is a hypnotic exploration of the outer edges of each musician's instrument. The final two movements, "Riddle" and "Coda," present a modern quartet performance with a tight counterpoint. Caliumi's biting alto matches Black's pulse, chased by both Bonifati's guitar and Grossi's bass. "Dark Bloom" is a tribute to the fight against fascism, built upon a dream sequence with what sounds like prisoner boxcars slowly transporting the persecuted. The album concludes with "BadAxes" and "Pedante/BadAxes (Reprise)," which opens with Black's solo before Caliumi's bass clarinet ushers in Grossi and Bonifati performing their unique chamber jazz, all elevated by a guest drummer.

Track Listing

Axes: I. Game; II Interlude; III Riddle; IV Coda; Dark Bloom; BadAxes; Pedinte/BadAxes (reprise).

Personnel

Additional Instrumentation

Manuel Caliumi: bass clarinet; Andrea Grossi: Bb clarinet, electric bass, Albanian lahuta; Jim Black: percussion.

Album information

Title: Axes | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: We Insist! Records


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