Piano trios which accentuate the abstract facets of the format have become increasingly widespread in recent years, although boasting a legacy which stretches back to the pioneering outfits of British pianist Howard Riley
in the late 1960s with bassist Barry Guy
. Foremost among the current roll call, which includes Frenchwoman Eve Risser
, Spaniard Agusti Fernandez
, and the New York City-based Dawn of Midi
, stands Portugal's RED Trio
. Its fourth outing Rebento
, issued as an LP containing three collectively birthed tracks totaling 47 minutes, finds a comfortable fit on the adventurous Lithuanian No Business label. While in the past guest artists have supplemented the core threesome, with saxophonist John Butcher on Empire
(No Business, 2011), and trumpeter Nate Wooley on Stem
(Clean Feed, 2012), this time out they revert to the unaccompanied state of their debut.
In the absence of traditional melody and rhythm, mastery of tone color, careful placement of sound, and level of responsiveness become critical. Happily each member of the triumvirate possesses these skills in abundance. Rodgrigo Pinheiro emphasizes the percussive nature of the piano through preparations, interior manipulation of the wires, and diverse other means of moderating the accustomed reverberations. Assisting him in his endeavors are the subtle but incisive partnership of bassist Hernani Faustino and drummer Gabriel Ferrandini, who not only provide momentum when needed, but also maintain an ongoing narrative of indeterminate sounds. However, perhaps their greatest strength derives from a shared syntax in which they explore the timbral possibilities inherent in their instruments to create a series of sensual and eerie moods.
"Carne" opens in a dense swirling mass of unexpected rumbles, taps and abrasion which converge into a resonant undercurrent which sweeps the piece forward. At one point Pinheiro contrasts a tolling treble with dampened low end chords, goosed by a sizzling cymbal shimmer. In fact the dialogue between piano and drums often lies at the heart of the interaction. After a nervy start, "Para" builds to a ringing climax, all the better to set up a tinkling music box piano coda which is the closest they get to a conventional solo. At just over the 20-minute mark, "Canhão" forms the most expansive number, inching from conversational interchange to near stasis, until it flowers into a wonderfully inventive drum feature in which Ferrandini marshals odd noises into the semblance of meter. It's a measure of how successful previous sessions have been that although the guest voices are missed, what remains is nonetheless a cut above much of what passes for the norm.