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The sophomore release of New York-based Max Johnson, after Elevated Vegetation (FMR 2012), finds this highly versatile acoustic trio focusing more on written compositions and less on free improvisation. The trioJohnson on double bass, prolific Kirk Knuffke on cornet and Ziv Ravitz on the drumsenjoys stretching Johnson's compositions in surprising ways.
Knuffke expands, disintegrates and re- structures Johnson's harmonic ideas in an expressive and imaginative manner, adapting himself to the shifting pulse of resourceful Ravitz and loose timekeeping colors of Johnson, who often uses his bow. All create an open, delicate balance where all play lead roles and receive equal solo time.
The trio's tight, collaborative interplay is highly dynamic and alternates organically, according to the temperament of the pieceminimalist and explicit on "Bizza," dense and nervous on "Held for Questioning," rhythmically driving on "Don Wrinkles," soft and gentle on the the title-piece ballad and beautiful, bluesy "A Pair of Glasses," where Johnson and Knuffke complete each other's melodic ideas, or urgent and aggressive on "Moving Vehicle." The last piece, "The Golem" is exceptional in this album's context due to a clear, dramatic, almost cinematic narrative nuanced with Johnson's restless pizzicato playing and the fractured outbursts of Knuffke and Ravitz.
An impressive, highly articulate trio.
Track Listing: The Pretzel; Bizza; Held for Questioning; Don Wrinkles; The Invisible
Trio; Moving Vehicle; A Pair of Glasses; The Golem.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.