A trio consisting of violin, bass and drums might seem a little thin, but violinist Billy Bang, bassist Joe Fonda and drummer Barry Altschul know a thing or two about this music and their collective effort on this disc combines elements of the intellectual and the physical. The result is, perhaps unsurprisingly, music which appeals in differing measures to both the head and the heart, serving notice of just how infrequently this mix is successfully caught on record.
On one level, the heart comes predominantly from Bang, yet another musician no longer with us and the likes of whom we might never see again. He's in his element on the galumphing swing of "Chan Chan" where, as one, the trio both toys with and nails a groove. Melodically, Bang is all over it like some post-modern Stephane Grappelli, albeit with a sensibility informed by radically different musical priorities.
"One for Don Cherry" captures no little measure of that man's impish spirit, but all three players are only too appreciative of the fact that beneath that quality Don Cherry's work was always marked by singularity of spirit. The music is accordingly wide open, shot through with the sense of things not just merely happening in the moment, but also the sense that every moment counts. Despite this, the music is never urgent for its own sake.
"From Here to There" is a matter of measured progress, building as it does upon Altschul's solo opening, then turning into a frenetic trio workout which retains its coherence. Bang and Fonda are both at their freest, and the result's an example of how far this trio could take the music, even while holding onto its distinct personality.
Homeward Bound; Implications; For Bea; From Here to There; Chan Chan ; History of Jazz in Reverse; One for Don Cherry; From the Waters of New Orleans.
Billy Bang: violin; Joe Fonda: double bass; Barry Altschul: drums.