Mikolaj Trzaska (pronounced "Miko-why Chass-kuh") is not a name which drops off even the most assiduous jazz fan's lips. But on the evidence of this recording, it will become increasingly familiar outside his native Poland. Already the reedman has featured alongside American multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee
on the excellent Magic
(Not Two, 2009), with reedman Ken Vandermark
's Resonance Ensemble, and in a spinoff from that aggregation with trombonist Steve Swell
under the moniker Inner Ear.
Riverloam Trio unites the Pole with two of the UK's most active improvisers: drummer Mark Sanders
, famed for his work with saxophonists Evan Parker
and Paul Dunmall
; and bassist Olie Brice
, a relative newcomer who has appeared with Parker and recorded with German saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock
. This limited edition double LP, captured in concert in Birmingham, England in 2011, features five extended spontaneous structures which explore a wide range of moods and tonalities, in front of what sounds like a sparse but privileged audience. It's group music, replete with responsive interplay, from which solos naturally emerge.
On alto saxophone and bass clarinet, Trzaska proves reminiscent of Vandermark, with his staccato phrases and repeated motifs, and also evokes McPhee at times with his simultaneous vocalizations. Jazz and blues inflections, though present, tend to be obscured, not least by his propensity for extreme tonal diversions. Brice grounds the music with a muscular tone, not unlike Charlie Haden
in his concentration on sound rather than speed, anchoring with measured accents when his companions are in full spate. Though never showy, he shines on the pensive "Ostrich Season" when his bowing creates a wonderful blend of ringing harmonics and groaning abrasions. Sanders combines polyrhythmic momentum with timbral diversity, an effect which adds depth throughout, but best heard in his solo introduction to the animated "Sumac And Pokeweed" where he weaves diverse textures into a pulsating chatter.
In a meeting of minds, paradoxically selfless yet predicated upon individual virtuosity, this is a set whose virtues are those which characterize the finest free improvisation: conversational, passionate, purposeful, well-paced, organic, and intense.