Fresh Sound launched its New Talent series in 1995 and has stayed true to its name by recording a stream of New York unknowns, including the debut of the Bad Plus. Continuing this established piano trio pedigree, composer and leader Russ Lossing (a typical jazz "newcomer, having arrived in town in 1986) works with his current trio (featuring bassist John Hebert and drummer Jeff Williams) with the adventurous intrepid sense of spelunkers coursing through a cave. He's heady, but here his thinking is turned to mixing melody with strict forms and linearity with more open and abstract concepts.
Everything on Phrase 6 is a first take and the band creates music that leads you to the edge of a mysterious abyss. "Virgil subverts the listener's expectations, and perhaps those of the players, by spinning long lines that never seem entirely to rest, ending phrases where a phrase would usually begin. "Down by the Glenside taps into the collective lyrical unconscious of the musicians with an Irish folk melody, and on "Spider's Web, piano and bass play sinuously in unison over skittering drums, bringing Lossing's method into focus: each strand of an idea interlocks with and informs the other. "Canto 1 offers pure melody and wide open improv, freed from conventional beginnings and endings, while Charlie Parker's "Dexterity gets a brief reading with fluctuating tempo, its bebop lyricism slowed down just enough to savor.
The thrills on Phrase 6 derive from the riddles Lossing constructs for his partners. The trio navigates tricky forms with dense chords, daring bass arpeggios and sharp rhythmic patterns, and each musician is presented with a series of choices. Whether they join up with or harmonize around each other at any given moment demands quick decisions and sidemen able to make themand here, Lossing has it all.
Down by the Glenside;
Russ Lossing: piano; John Hebert: bass; Jeff Williams: drums.
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