"We never solo, we always solo." Like so many great ideas, Joe Zawinul's iconic line about his group Weather Report is both brilliantly simple and allows for endless possibilities. No single player gets featured in the spotlight while the others provide a steady pattern behind them; rather everyone constantly improvises around the framework of a given piece and all contributions are equally important to the whole. Known as "The Norwegian bass Viking" (for good reason as this album shows), Per Mathisen insists that the members of this trio embody the Zawinul philosophy in every moment they're playing.
The result is a highly-charged power trio record that's constantly adventurous and powerful enough to shake the house down. Through Sounds of 3 they may stick to changes or hit fills in unison from time to time, but never lose that spirit of unpredictability and stretching the parameters of what they're doing. To the extent there's any lead part, it's usually from Frode Alnæs taking lines on guitar to establish the head or pattern, which still leaves him plenty of spaces to slow down or maybe play with electric tones, while Giraldo Piloto's drumming deftly juggles tricky fills and rhythms without losing the throughline. Each member's small solo passages serve as important pieces of the songs rather than mere chances to show off.
The different tracks all provide a chance to show another facet of Mathisen's writing and give the three space to surprise each other. With the bandleader composing (or rather laying out the structure for) all but one, he shows his interest in a range of things from aural abstraction to spry funk. The bass is nimbly versatile yet still always somewhere in the big malleable pocket: bubbly and funky through "Kick Ab Shuffle," supple and hard-driving for the frisky "Rumbamania" or calming and steady in the more meditative "Maestro H. Sunde." The trio takes some jazzy cues from the likes of John McLaughlin while also making room for rock-and-roll groove and boogie worthy of Steve Morse or Jeff Beck.
The one non-original is a lively rendition of Gabriel Fauré's "Pavane," which gets a lovely intro on the fretless (shades of Jaco Pastorius's "Portrait of Tracy" are vivid) before the band takes off and flies. It's an ear-pleasing hybrid that manages to honor the spirit of the composition and fit as a part of the bigger electric whole. One can debate whether it was a good idea to add a processed robot vocal on the closing track, but it serves as another indication of Mathisen's free-spirited approach to playing with sound, one which turns out to go well with the piece's surprisingly catchy hook in the end. Capping off such a dynamic and exciting album, it doesn't seem right to complain too much. Sounds of 3 is just too fun for that.
The C Sharp Man; Rabbagast II; Maestro H. Sunde; Kick Ab Shuffle; Pavane; Skumringstimen; Rumbamania; Travellin´ Man.
Per Mathisen: acoustic and electric basses, vocoder; Frode Alnæs: electric guitar;
Giraldo Piloto: drums.