The best of creative modern jazz can be visualized like Providence's Waterfire: living, breathing art with the near silence of water and sizzle of fire. True to that spirit, The Chris Crocco Fluid Trio +
offers both vitalizing and hushed elements in the sequence of tunes on its self-titled sophomore outing. Crocco, the southern-born, New York-based guitarist reunites with his original trio matesmentor and saxophone icon, George Garzone
, and drummer Francisco Mela
. Bassist Peter Siavov rounds out the "+," though it is Garzone whose contributions are limited but no less soulful and powerful. Though Crocco maintains that the collection didn't have a unifying concept, the flow of pieces is impeccable and creates a story, regardless of intent. Crocco displays impressive talent, in both his playing and versatile compositional skills.
Crocco has a wealth of technical ability, and great proficiency as a free-flowing improvisational performer. "Avenge" opens the set, unleashing a swinging beast; full of undulating chords and razor sharp notes, Crocco wastes no time in demonstrating the group's capabilities. On the long, bluesy, "Heaven," Crocco has the kind of precise clarity heard in some of guitarist Jerry Garcia
's finest work. The piece segues flawlessly into Garzone's arresting tenor lead on "Silvia," a sequel to "To Silvia (Don't Say Goodbye)," from Crocco's debut, The Chris Crocco Fluid Trio featuring George Garzone & Francisco Mela
(Self Produced, 2007). "When It Is When" takes a more dramatic turn, with Crocco playing in the lower register, as the melody opens into a physically powerful theme, augmented by Mela's subtle but emotive cymbal work.
Garzone and Crocco demonstrate their expert synergy when the full quartet tackles the bluesy but upbeat, "Trial of Time," a piece with an airborne, hovering sensation but not without some underlying turmoil. The guitar trio is featured on "What It Is," the most freely improvised piece in the collection. "Spice Mine" echoes the kind of unassuming but poignant Americana of Bill Frisell
's Ghost Town
(Nonesuch 2000), with Mela's altering the pace, and setting up inspiring solos from Crocco and Siavov. "My Own Personal Wake" and the closer, "My Peace," are intricate and intimate showcases for Crocco, the latter primarily an unforced and sensitive acoustic solo that's the perfect meditative conclusion for pondering the far-reaching scope of this collection.
Crocco has a great sense of how to integrate melody, silence and dissonance as part of the musical terminology throughout his ten original compositions. The influence of John Coltrane
is as apparent in Crocco's playing as it is in Garzone's, but it doesn't dictate the focus of any composition. Despite the absence of a central theme, there is a yin and yang affect that serves a similar purpose in uniting all the pieces. The wide variety of styles set the stage, as if each successive piece depended on its predecessor. Likewise, The Chris Crocco Fluid Trio +
represents another major step forward in Crocco's musical growth.