In a classic Monty Python comedy sketch, John Cleese, a self-defense instructor, teaches various techniques to disarm an attacker who comes at his victims armed with a piece of fruit. The students dissent, but Cleese runs down a list of lethal weapons including grapes, apples, grapefruit (whole and segments), pomegranates, etc. The pupils bored refrain, "we done them," to which Cleese yelps, "How about a banana?"
Like the defense class, listeners might protest at the thought of yet another piano jazz trio recording. That is unless the instigator is pianist and composer Art Bailey
. His trio debut, Quiet As A Bone
is equal parts post-bop jazz, chamber classical, free improvisation, folk, and Eastern European musics. Culling material from his experience as an accordionist in klezmer bands, a pianist in Latin and Cuban jazz settings, and a band member of the avant-chamber group Rare as Radium, he presents the music here as an exercise in extended composition, group improvisation and presents some fairly challenging, yet accessible music.
The key to this recording is the execution. Backed by drummer Owen Howard
(a frequent collaborator with saxophonist Andrew Rathbun
) and bassist Michael Bates
(whose crossover recording Acrobat: Music for, and by, Dmitri Shostakovich
(Sunnyside, 2011) was a revelation), Bailey accomplishes the precarious and crafty ambitions of his compositions. On "Rebus," Bates' swirling bass solo introduction sets up the pianist's incendiary left hand barrage. The piece borders modern classical only to be hauled back via Howard's heavy swing. Bailey attacks the keys somewhere east of Herbie Hancock
and west of Don Pullen
. Then, as he's wont to do here, the music pauses, and after a short drum solo, changes direction. This is repeated on "Malocclusion," where a passage of post-bop stops dead in its tracks and morphs into a ballad after a piano improvisation. There is nothing out of place here and Bailey's interests vary from the intimacy of the introspective "Regime Change" to the two freely improvised tracks "Ribofree" and "Ribofour."
Art Bailey's piano trio recording is something that altogether separates itself from the formulaic.