Trio 3 Plus Geri Allen - Celebrating Mary Lou Williams Live at Birdland New York (Intakt, 2011)


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When the pianist Geri Allen joined the well established Trio 3 (Oliver Lake on alto saxophone, Reggie Workman on bass and Andrew Cyrille on drums) it proved to be an auspicious occasion, captured on this album live in concert at Birdland in New York City. While the participants have serious avant-garde cred, they have no problem adapting to Williams' compositions as she was a life-long musical explorer herself. “Blues for Peter" establishes the medium-up groove tempo with some wonderfully ripe saxophone soloing over insistent piano accompaniment. Lake uses a saxophone technique similar to Eric Dolphy here and it works really well. There is a spare and longing piano introduction to “Ghost of Love" that opens into yearning ballad saxophone, with patient accompaniment that caresses the melody and mood. Workman takes an excellent bass solo, taking his time to develop his ideas with a thick strong tone. The rest of the group returns to close out this classy performance with Lake adding some ripe alto to give the proceedings a jolt of energy. “New Musical Express" has a fast, rolling boogie feel, that is undulating and slightly Monk-ish. The tart and citrus flavored alto that Lake uses works well, with some fine elastic bass along for the ride. A nice section of collective improvisation leads into another finely placed bass solo. Strong and lively percussive piano leads the trio on a fine feature sans saxophone, developing to a rhythmic drum solo where Cyrille builds tension be slowly adding elements to his music until he builds a beautiful cohesive whole. “Intermission" is strong, thoroughly modern sounding jazz, with a high-pitched and deeply reaching saxophone statement, before a section of fine piano trio interplay. Lake returns with some more acid-tongued commentary, before the music drops in tempo to a quiet section taken out by a spell of hand-clap percussion. Raw-toned saxophone opens the classic Williams composition “What's Your Story, Morning Glory" and makes way for a series of unaccompanied solo statements, before the group finally comes together for a full band improvisation. After a short solo piano meditation on “Libra" the group concludes with the jaunty “Roll 'em" which opens with a lively piano riff and strong alto saxophone setting up a joyous ride. Ripe, hard collective improvisation led by scalding saxophone keeps the performance vibrant and strong. Workman breaks out for an intricate bass solo that calms things down a bit before the drums and piano return to trade off sections. This was a very well done and classy performance, with the group taking a wide range of Mary Lou Williams compositions and adding their own unique musical imprint to create a unique and memorable performance. The booklet is the icing on the cake with a fine essay and excellent photography. Celebrating Mary Lou Williams (Live At Birdland New York)—amazon.com

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