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Swedish reedman Martin Kuchen ploughs a rich variety of furrows, from explorative improvised summits to his rambunctious Angles aggregations, but one of the most enduring has been his Trespass Trio. On The Spirit Of Pitești, the fourth entry in the band's discography, he is joined by the same crew there since the inception, bassist Per Zanussi and drummer Raymond Strid. As always Küchen imparts a political subtext to the music through his choice of titles, in this case alluding to the Pitești experiment of re-education through forced labour carried out in Romania from 1949 onwards which Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the 1970 Nobel Prize laureate for literature, referred to as the "most terrible act of barbarism in the contemporary world."
Musically the dominant characteristic of the band's work might be termed a world weary sorrow which conveys passion (and compassion) through restraint and holding back. Two takes of "Sounds & Ruins," another of Küchen's heartfelt dirges, bookend the 36-minute program. In the first version the reedman on baritone saxophone contrasts the mournful melody against Strid's bursts of rattling drums producing an unsettling edge. Küchen only ceases when he has wrung every last ounce of feeling from the tune, freeing Zanussi to continue with a passage of Charlie Haden like gravitas. The closing rendition hews to the same pattern, but this time the swinging, almost syncopated, cadences create a more hopeful feel.
In between, the doleful title track set out by Küchen's soulful alto and Zanussi's cello-like bowing transmits a similar emotional charge. As does "In Tears" where the leader's baritone delicately etches a line of great beauty against subtle and sensitive accompaniment from Strid's conversational drums and Zanussi's spare singing twang. The only change of pace comes with "Fri Kokko (Free Retardo At The Koko Club)" where a gently kicking cymbal pulse combines with walking bass behind Küchen's querulous dissonant alto. A rolling drum solo leads to squalling saxophone/drum interaction interrupted by a series of zipping pizzicato bass breaks, before a sudden stop.
Once again the Trespass Trio proves itself the exquisite master of a narrow but powerfully affecting bandwidth. The only negative for this album is the restricted playing time.
Sounds & Ruins (Take 3); The Spirit Of Pitești; In Tears; Fri Kokko (Free Retardo
At The Koko Club); Centers; Sounds & Ruins (Take 2).
Per Zanussi: double bass; Raymond Strid: drums, percussion; Martin Küchen:
baritone saxophone, alto saxophone, sopranino saxophone