Sounds is as much a mission statement as a name for the debut CD by the Rob Brown Trio. Matching his alto saxophone with Daniel Levin's cello and Satoshi Takeishi's Japanese Taiko percussion, Brown frees himself from the expectations of the standard sax-plus-rhythm trio. The textural range of the instrumentation, particularly the exotic percussion and the music's spaciousness of form allows for non-idiomatic exploration that is not strictly free improvisation. Eschewing the fire-breathing energy that often typifies sax-led trios, Brown's music unhurriedly respires with focus on the collectively created atmosphere.
A percussive flourish introduces "Archaeology, part 1 of the 3-part titular suite, as cello and alto entwine for a sparse theme. Pizzicato cello surfaces with a groove that Takeishi locks into, supporting Brown's slinky line. The form dissipates into ghostly cello scrapes and percussive color intuitively blending together. "Antics is peppier, propelled by a slightly off-kilter cello, around which the alto wraps. Takeishi tastefully accents and later insinuates the bass movement with his deeper drum under the leader's flight. Spare and open playing returns on "Astir, the concluding movement; the suite's alternating tight unisons and airy freer passages showcase the strengths and range of the trio.
The quick-paced "Stutter Step adheres most closely to the standard rhythm-plus-soloist mode. Levin almost walks his fleet plucked line, accented by Takeishi's jaunty ride cymbal, as Brown unfurls a series of fluid phrases. The leader sits out for several minutes of "Tibetan Folk Song, as cello and percussion tease and deconstruct the tune, which eventually emerges with the saxophone doubling the melody.
Not music for short attention spans, Sounds> reveals its nuanced logic through careful and repeated listening and exemplifies how non-traditional instrumentation can offer unexpected possibilities.
Sounds part I Archaeology; Sounds part II Antics; Sounds part III Astir; Stutter Step; Tibetan Folk Song; Sinew; Moment of Pause.
Daniel Levin: cello; Rob Brown: alto saxophone; Satoshi Takeishi: percussion.