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String Trio of New York: The River of Orion: 30 Years Running

Glenn Astarita By

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Established in 1979 with the Black Saint album First String, featuring Billy Bang manning the violin chair, the revered band String Trio of New York celebrates its 30-year anniversary with the impressionable effort, The River of Orion: 30 Years Running. Over the years, the trio has invited guest artists, such as saxophonist Oliver Lake and pianist Anthony Davis, to partake in performances and recordings. However, bassist John Lindberg and guitarist James Emery loom as the core components of the trio's makeup, spanning four decades. From a jazz perspective, the band embodies a genre-busting integration of evolving song forms that touch upon modern classical and folk elements. This release highlights Emery's "The River Of Orion" and Lindberg's "Journey Platz," both multi-part compositions.

Again, the trio explores numerous concepts while always maintaining sinuous flows and probing storylines. The musicians execute a cohesive plane that go on a burgeoning journey, spanning sweet and sassy grooves to torridly devised free-bop passages. And they inject the chamber element in spots. It's demanding music for the discriminating connoisseur, as some might say. But where many others become bogged down in snazzy time signatures that lack a particular mood or vibe, these folks sustain loads of interest.

On "The River Of Orion—Aquarian Waters (Part Two)," the musicians breeze through a medium-tempo swing vamp, dappled with Emery's blazing 16th-note voicings and Thomas' lyrically rich lines. But they straddle the avant-garde during "The River Of Orion—Alnitak," as they emulate a frantic metropolis via a blazing trail of ideas and assertions. Here, the trio forges bump-and-groove passages with sweet-toned innocence and ominous circumstances.

The plot continues during "Journey Platz—Part One," which is a piece engineered upon interweaving dialogues and Lindberg's furiously enacted arco movements. They fuse counterpoint, dissonance and intense phrasings that summon notions of someone attempting to navigate through an intricate maze. Yet they find the opening, and soar skyward into a climactic frenzy, underpinned by Thomas' sanguine choruses.

One of the striking elements of the trio's chemistry pertains to its translucent manner of regenerating a given theme or melody into a contrapuntal forum. They flush out certain components, while breathing life into subsequent movements. Abiding an evolutionary methodology amid their cunning improvisational maneuvers, it's not about every man for himself. Contrarily, it's centered on the musicians' remarkable intuition, which is the stuff that can't be taught in the classroom.

Regardless, the 30-year mark serves as a notable timestamp for a band that keeps moving forward with astounding invention, complementing the instrumentalists' signature styles and charismatic, group- based disposition.


Track Listing: The River Of Orion - Aquarian Waters (Part One); Aquarian Waters (Part Two); E. Eridani; The Trapezium; The River Of Orion (Theme); Alnitak; Stellar Coronae; The Eridanus Supervoid; East Of Mintaka; Journey Platz - Part One; Journey Platz - Part Two; Journey Platz - Part Three; Journey Platz - Part Four; Journey Platz - Part Five.

Personnel: Rob Thomas: violin; James Emery: guitar; John Lindberg: bass.

Title: The River of Orion: 30 Years Running | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Black Saint

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