David Haney has a talent for concocting recondite tune titles. The five-part "Pteradactyl Lunchbox cycle on the pianist's debut CIMP session is only one reflection of a remarkable intellect that revels in both humor and hand-spun absurdism. The disc's title is another, distilling its contents down to a most basic signifier and eschewing any sort of promotional embellishment. Musically, Haney and his A-list colleagues, Julian Priester and Adam Lane, are less difficult to draw a bead on. The program, which is challenging in places, is suffused with a strong consensual voice that's inclusive rather than alienating in scope.
Priester took part in Haney's debut date for CIMP's sister label, Cadence Jazz. Haney also has associations with Lane from earlier groups, so the three share common ground from the start. Recorded, as is the CIMP custom for piano-inclusive projects, in the confines of the Gilbert Recital Hall in Canton on a hot summer day, the session fortunately doesn't suffer any adverse sonic effects from the heightened heat and humidity. Each of the instruments is cleanly audible and evenly spaced in stereo mix.
Even at their most flurried and fecund, Lane's rubberized plucks lose nothing in the way of resonance or reach, and the full range of Priester's slide and pucker-saturated inflections remains on voluminous display. Most of the pieces are collectively improvised, but all retain a strong structural integrity that recalls the pastoral chamber jazz of antecedents like the Giuffre 3 and some of Albert Mangelsdorff's trios from the 1970s.
The three players regularly exchange roles, Haney ushering the way amidst counterpoint from Priester and Lane, only to slip seamlessly into a secondary position as one or the other of his partners takes the lead. Lane's rich scything harmonics on "Ear to the Hive replace Priester's sputtering patterns in mimicking the sounds of buzzing bees. Haney's pedal-dampened rumbles and errant string tugs follow, leading into a coda populated by abstract legato shapes.
There's a fair share of theme-guided playing too, as on the two versions of "You Span the Distance where Lane walks a plump blues line and Priester locutes lubricious ballad-style phrases on top. A liquidity exists in the latter's tonality that makes his interplay with Lane all that more inviting and successful. Long story short, the septuagenarian statesman of the trombone sounds better than ever in this setting.
As a leader, Haney knows how to balance jocularity with severity, space with readily a discernable carapace that brings out the best in the trio. The pieces rarely resort to flash or memorable ornamentation, working instead as hollow vessels for the players to fill on the fly. The sagacious and spontaneous approach yields genuine thrills that are palpable as each one unfolds. It's cerebral improvised music that doesn't forsake its humanity or souland channeled through the novel instrumentation, it works like a charm.
David Haney: piano; Julian Priester: trombone; Adam Lane: bass. Recorded August 12, 2005,