writer Stuart Nicholson recently posited that appropriation has driven the development of jazz, for it draws on disparate musical sources to enrich its own vocabulary. This force has however been balanced with some constants that link one stage of development to another, and the most notable constant has been ensemble combinations. Of those combinations, perhaps no other has seen as much use as the acoustic piano trio. The French group Triade starts with such a traditional base, but they use Nicholson’s constant, appropriation, to ensure that their music is anything but traditional. On their Yolk Records debut, L’Ardu,
Triade distills much of the last 100 years of musical development into a lean and agile sound.
Free jazz, atonal classical music, minimalism, rich jazz ballads, electronica, funk, stride piano, bebop – Triade mines all of these forms for spontaneous compositions. But these players take only the essence of each as a foundation from which to explore. They do not mimic ideas; they find the cracks in the forms that no one has looked in and expand them.
”Jaune” rolls along on pianist Cedric Piromalli’s striding right hand, but flutters in strange dissonant directions on his left hand while bassist Sebastian Boisseau syncopates the groove with a classic walking line until the lock-step rhythm disintegrates into an ambient tone poem. On “Praha” Piromalli evokes Bill Evans’ lush keyboard atmospheres, which in turn reach back to the floating, open-ended harmonies of Ravel.
While “Praha” waxes romantic “Contre-feux,” after Arnold Schoenberg, thrusts darkly. First the players explore the composer’s knotty tones and asymmetrical lines, then abruptly enter more spacious ground for Boisseau to sculpt lonely figures. ”L’Ardu” opens with the pounding, roaring density of Cecil Taylor, then shifts to more modern breakbeats from Larmigant. Bouisseau thickens the groove with sputtering bass and Priomalli adds clipped high-register melody drawn from electronic minimalism.
The piano trio’s limited instrumentation allows these players to suggest their influences, and in turn it becomes a breeding ground for tightly focused improvisations. Four pieces are two minutes or less, but they never feel incomplete. The brevity serves to bring into bright relief a particular idea the trio wish to express. The sinister, rambling funk of “In Delux” lasts only for a minute. You might want more, but if you got it, it would only get repetitive; the moment instead lingers deliciously. “Sans defense” teases with the blues melodically and swing rhythmically, but never explicitly states either. Piromalli muses hypnotically in the piano’s upper register while Larmigant pushes and pulls with bass drum accents and skittering rim patterns.
”L’Ardu” translates as "The Arduous," and Triade takes on the arduous task of dialoging with music’s history. They place limits on themselves that they have to work through After first assimilating years of music history, they break through those limits to generate passionate, intense improvised music that moves with purpose. Not an ironic, postmodern glance at music, L’Ardu, with eyes in back of its head, takes a studied step forward.