250

Gregg Bendian's Trio Pianissimo: Change

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Building on the deep interaction of Balance—originally released in 1998 but recently reissued by TrueMedia JazzWorks—Change finds Trio Pianissimo continuing to explore, evolve, and integrate percussionist/composer Gregg Bendian's diverse musical interests. While the piano trio represents Bendian's most intimate setting to date, that doesn't mean that Change operates in conventional terms. It is, in fact, a bold, in-your-face recording that even better meshes disparate elements including free jazz, contemporary classical through-composition, and even a little progressive rock.

Still, that's not to imply that Bendian, pianist Steve Hunt, and bassist John Lockwood aren't capable of profound subtlety. "She Knows, with its unhurried pace and touching grace, has precedence in many of ECM's subtile piano trios, rooted in an impressionistic elegance that recalls Bobo Stenson, John Taylor, and Tord Gustavsen. But equally it possesses a different kind of energy that suggests the wider purview of its interpreters, and a fragile beauty that demonstrates just how diverse Hunt—normally found in fusion circles—can be. Bendian layers bell-like tuned percussion over his drum kit on the delicate "Sleep & Dream, a delicately constructed tone poem that moves in and out of time, abstract and recondite yet curiously evocative.

Elsewhere the tone is more outgoing. "Ice Blue begins spacious and indirect, contrasting Bendian's fervent solo drum prelude, "Statement, but ultimately winds its way through a number of 7/4 feels ranging from light swing to more insistent backbeat. Loose yet connected is the operative mode here as Bendian and Lockwood drive underneath Hunt's solo with surprising synchronicity until the seven-minute mark, when Bendian's compositional élan reasserts itself with a passage that brings to mind prog-rockers Emerson, Lake and Palmer, but with considerably more finesse.

The appropriately titled "Knot Grass, with its idiosyncratic theme and staggered time sense, suggests where Thelonious Monk might have gone had he aligned himself with free thinkers like Ornette Coleman. But Hunt's solo, while filled with the abrupt punctuations that typified Monk, is suppler. It's a paradoxical blend also used to great advantage on "Gallop's Gallop —a relatively obscure and rarely-recorded Monk tune from the mid-1950s that's the closest Trio Pianissimo gets to the jazz mainstream.

The closing piece, "Torrents, may be the most ambitious. Combining detailed compositional ideas with wild free play, it elicits thoughts of Cecil Taylor, but with broader dynamics and less inherent density. It's the kind of piece that could only work with a trio whose collective resume ranges from involvement in the edgy Left Coast scene to work with intrepid innovators Derek Bailey and Joe Maneri.

At the end of the day what makes Trio Pianissimo's eclectic blend of styles work is its uncanny communal responsiveness. There are times when the improvisational shifts on Change feel defined, but clearly are not. By blurring stylistic boundaries in an open-ended interpretation of finely-honed structures, Bendian, Hunt, and Lockwood have carved a unique space for themselves in a format often associated with a more conventional approach—one that's clearly antithetical to Trio Pianissimo's own view.

Visit Gregg Bendian on the web.


Track Listing: Statement; Ice Blue; Prelude; She Knows; Glancing; Knot Grass; Slee & Dream; To Ben Riley; Gallop's Gallop; Torrents.

Personnel: Steve Hunt: piano; John Lockwood: bass; Gregg Bendian: drums.

Title: Change | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Aggregate Music


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Heart Knows CD/LP/Track Review Heart Knows
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 22, 2017
Read Jersey CD/LP/Track Review Jersey
by Geno Thackara
Published: September 22, 2017
Read Wobbly Danse Flower CD/LP/Track Review Wobbly Danse Flower
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: September 22, 2017
Read Carry Fire CD/LP/Track Review Carry Fire
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: September 22, 2017
Read A Night Walking Through Mirrors CD/LP/Track Review A Night Walking Through Mirrors
by Barry Witherden
Published: September 21, 2017
Read Jondo CD/LP/Track Review Jondo
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 21, 2017
Read "Prick of the Litter" CD/LP/Track Review Prick of the Litter
by Doug Collette
Published: January 28, 2017
Read "PausaLive" CD/LP/Track Review PausaLive
by Patrick Keyes
Published: April 27, 2017
Read "Small Town" CD/LP/Track Review Small Town
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: August 4, 2017
Read "Rock Pool Mirror" CD/LP/Track Review Rock Pool Mirror
by Barry O'Sullivan
Published: July 19, 2017
Read "A Multitude of Angels" CD/LP/Track Review A Multitude of Angels
by John Kelman
Published: December 1, 2016
Read "Chance Meeting" CD/LP/Track Review Chance Meeting
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 28, 2016

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.