If at all familiar to modern day listeners, David Izenzon's name is most likely to ring a bell for his bass wizardry on Ornette Coleman's two-volume At The Golden Circle Stockholm (Blue Note, 1965). But the archive recording Stop Time is a reminder of just what listeners are missing. Izenson remained active well after his sojourn with Ornette, playing in New York City, with the likes of Jaki Byard and Paul Motian, until his untimely death in 1979, aged 47. Dates under his own leadership were rare even in his heyday. Although it was a collective endeavor, Izenson was responsible for organizing this 1978 live session for a trio featuring clarinet maverick Perry Robinson and storied drummer Barry Altschul, at what had once been Ornette's Prince Street loft.
The trio combine on four flowing pieces in a 53-minute program. While all three musicians are such accomplished improvisers that they are quite capable of extemporizing the repeated motifs and simple folky refrains which adorn each number, there are also sufficient well-turned phrases and shared recurring snags to suggest an overseeing mind; who that might be, though, is lost in the mists of time. However, that is irrelevant to the joy to be had in these playful exchanges from a threesome, at the top of their game, who illuminate the interplay with their individual brilliance.
Izenson's classical training means that he exhibits a sure melodic and tonal command, though it does not gainsay an imaginative streak which can lead to sudden swerves left field amid the consonance. While everyone largely fulfils their expected instrumental roles, his facility with the bow (always one of his strengths) allows him to effortlessly step into the front line at times, and that is particularly evident on the dirge-like "Untitled II."
The mercurial Robinson proves his equal. His ability to access a never-ending stream of songlike and rhythmic invention is unrivalled; he can be heard in a similarly unfettered, but not disavowing tradition, project by William Parker's Clarinet Trio on the stupendous Bob's Pink Cadillac (Eremite, 2002). Also remarkable is his control of pitch and color which allows him to combine velvety runs with multiphonic squawks with no disjunction whatsoever.
To Altschul, already a veteran of multi-instrumentalist Sam Rivers' freewheeling trios, the loose themes and spontaneous give- and-take are second nature. His timbrally varied propulsion equates less to talking drums and more to a recital by a drum raconteur. His sensitivity is such that even when he makes a pummeling circuit of his kit at one point during the bounce of "Untitled I" it enlivens rather than obliterates the dance.
Occasional sonic glitches betray the age and quality of the original tapes, but nothing is sufficiently prolonged to interfere with the enjoyment of the music. Whether going from the wild to the whimsical or the lyrical to the loquacious, the album offers a great example of the smile-inducing magic which seasoned performers such as these can produce, seemingly out of a hat.
Untitled I; Untitled II; Untitled III; Untitled IV.
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