On paper, the instrumentation of the trio of clarinetist Bill Payne
, violinist Eva Lindal
and pianist Carol Liebowitz
looks perfectly suited to some form of chamber music, if not classical compositions then something equally polite. But, the music produced by the threesome totally belies such expectations as it is totally improvised, with nothing preconceived. Of course, given that instrumentation, the music does still sound polite, but without the structure and formality of chamber music. So, "chamber improv" is a fitting description to do it justice.
Although the origins of the three are far apart geographicallyPayne is from Illinois, Lindal from Stockholm and Liebowitz New Yorkand musically, they all eventually gravitated to free improvisation, each citing the improvising pianist Connie Crothers
as crucial to that process. From the aural evidence of their debut recording's eleven tracks, varying in length from two minutes to almost eleven, it is immediately obvious that the three are totally compatible as improvisers, already sounding as if they have years of improvising experience together.
As with most successful improv, the key to this trio's compatibility is the presence of three distinct, separate voices that each have their own story to tell but not at the expense of the others. So, there is give and take between the three of them, with none of them being a leader throughout or having to take a backseat. When one player is in full flow, the others allow them space and provide support, safe in the knowledge that their turn will come.
The longest track, "What We Are Saying," is the centrepiece and highlight of the album, its extended duration allowing the musicians greater freedom of expression, as exemplified by their use of voices to supplement the instruments. By comparison, some of the shorter tracks contain ideas that would have lent themselves to more extensive exploration. Another development for future consideration is raised by the track "B/E." As its title hints, this piece is a clarinet-duo only involving Payne and Lindal, and is a very successful dialogue of equals. It would have been good to hear more such tracks, involving all possible duos and, maybe even some solo tracks too.
Throughout, the music flows easily and naturally. With plenty of improvised melodic lines vying for attention, none of the players ever sounds as if they need the crutch of notated music to help things along. The three combine sympathetically to create a comfortable soundscape that offers an accessible listening experience for those who may have previously shied away from such improvised music.