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The trio format without a chording instrument (a guitar or keyboard) tends to loosen the atmosphere, giving the music a more fluid feel. Bassist Jeff Johnson, joined by saxophonist Hans Teuber and drummer Tad Britton, achieves a compelling chamber-like fluidity on Near Earth.
Teuber's tenor saxophone approach here has a clean, clear, bracingly cool feel on its interplay with with Johnson's round bass lines and the intricate textures from Britton's drum kit. He floats up in the higher register mostly, vibratoless, with a style that feels like a marriage of Lee Konitz and Stan Getz, sometimes sounding almost as though he's playing a clarinet, one with a slight metallic bite to it.
The set contains a handful of ruminative group improvisations, all of them melodic and beautifully accessible, as well as covers of a couple of pop tunes, Johnny Mercer's "Dream" and Distal/Reardon's "The Good Life," as well as three Johnson originals.
The overall feeling with Near Earth is one of a soothingly understated calm, a salubrious low-key spirituality full of cool, appealing melodies riding along on a floating momentum. Even when they kick up the tempo, as on "Quickening," the music maintains a crystalline, hour-after-the-rainstorm focus.
Give it your full attention; it will repay you.
Track Listing: Three Rivers, Dream, Zen, Train of Thought, Traditional Abstract, The Good Life, Quickening, Gaia, Dances, Earthset
Personnel: Jeff Johnson--bass; Hans Teuber--tenor saxophone; Tad Britton--drums
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.