In 1968, three Europeanspianist Irene Schweizer, bassist Peter Kowald and drummer Pierre Favreprivately released Santana
, on the surface a traditional piano trio, but in fact a violent refutation of jazz' most dependable format. Laden with a brutality that may have made Cecil Taylor blanche, Santana
was another example of European free improvisation cutting the cord from traditional American jazz.
Now, 36 years later, another piano trio, comprised of peers of the Santana
group (bassist Barry Guy and drummer Paul Lytton) plus American pianist Marilyn Crispell, has released Ithaca
, an album that both recalls the work of the earlier trio and rescues the format from their vicious treatment.
Judged solely on its own merit, Ithaca
is another firm entry into European improvised music, replete with all its attendant qualities: superlative musicianship, a full range of textures, and a rational, cerebral approach. Guy continues to expand the vocabulary of the acoustic bass, ably matched by Paul Lytton's abstract notions of rhythm and sound. Crispell, an American musician who has been bridging the gap between the continents, comports herself well given the company, her exuberance driving the more raucous portions and her delicacy coloring the more reserved ones.
Stood side by side with Santana
is reactionary in the way that much British improvised music always has been. While the continent thundered away, Britain, including much of the work of Messrs. Guy and Lytton, was more thoughtful, forcing listeners to peer in, rather than ward off blows. There are moments of, let us call it the German ideal, but they are cushioned by contrastingly ethereal segments. If Santana
effectively murdered Bill Evans, Ithaca
dug up his corpse and used Schweizer, Kowald and Favre's collective brain to create a wonderful Frankenstein's monster.