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It would be easy enough to cite this trio as a veritable jazz supergroup. And as one would surmise, the musicians give it their best shot. It's the trio's third album and first not recorded from a live performance. Here, legendary reedman David Liebman uses various flutes and saxophones, yet this is a democratic engagement where each player serves a crucial role. Indeed, their insightful improv tactics and acute communications rule the roost via somber ballads and popping funk vamps, amid a tidal wave of bouncy free-bop oeuvres and experimental world music grooves.
The group dedicates this album to the late modern jazz trumpeter, Paul Smoker (19412016). The first and lengthiest (10:28) track "El Smoke," is derived from drummer Phil Haynes' collective quartet Joint Venture, featuring bassist Drew Gress, saxophonist Ellery Eskelin and Smoker. Therefore, Settings for Three draws inspiration from Smoker's artistry on this piece that begins with the bassist's nimble phrasings and Liebman's high-pitched flute work, offering imagery of a sacred place of worship.
Liebman picks up his tenor sax atop Hayne's sweeping drums patterns, leading to a potent medium-tempo and pulsating journey, sculpted on buoyant flows and alternating currents. However, they chance upon dark corridors due to Gress' animated bass solo and Haynes' creaky cymbals treatments, but amp it up with an excitable bop motif that comes to a dead stop. In addition, the crystalline audiophile sound quality is a bonus on this multidimensional program, streaming with prismatic colors and the musicians' enviable chops, among many other positives.