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The Trio with Henry Threadgill, Vijay Iyer and Dafnis Prieto at the Jazz Gallery

The Trio with Henry Threadgill, Vijay Iyer and Dafnis Prieto at the Jazz Gallery

Courtesy Paul Reynolds


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The Trio with Henry Threadgill, Vijay Iyer, and Dafnis Prieto
Jazz Gallery
New York, NY
February 25, 2024

For a team of titans —two recipients of MacArthur Foundation "genius grants," plus a Pulitzer Prize winner—The Trio keeps a low profile, even within the jazz community. Perennially busy as leaders, authors and educators, Henry Threadgill, Vijay Iyer, and Dafnis Prieto perform together only occasionally and are yet to release a recording, Even bootleg performances on YouTube are scarce to non-existent.

The crowd chatter before The Trio's February 25 return visit to Manhattan's snug Jazz Gallery—seven years after their last show there—suggested that even associates of the players had little idea as to what to expect, other than engrossing excellence. The 50-minute set—the first of two for the night—met those expectations with ease.

As befits their portfolios as leaders who each write (a lot), the trio played composed pieces, sometimes consulting charts as they played. The selections were not announced from the stage, but each member contributed compositions about equally, Iyer confirmed in a brief chat after the set.

The three share an approach that straddles adventurousness and accessibility—too stylistically "out" for jazz traditionalists, and yet less deeply into discordant freedom than many of their fellow avant-gardists. That common aesthetic created music that felt organic and musically coherent, despite the diverse writing credits.

Some reviews of past Trio performances emphasized the band's fieriness, but this set was generally conversational and low-key. More often than not, Iyer and Prieto kicked off the musical chats with a duo introduction. Quiet beginnings sometimes rose to a powerful tangle of Iyer's rhythmic pianism and Prieto's bouncing (yet never overly showy or busy) drumming. The two then formed a gleeful mutual admiration society, smiling at one another as Iyer sustained thundering patterns on the low notes and Prieto detonated precise, polyrhythmic explosions.

When Threadgill joined the flow, layering musical lines atop his bandmates' foundation, his lines on flute—both regular (C) and bass—were long and flowing. On tenor, he favored short probing statements, only rarely sustaining his blowing or raising the volume to growls or screams. The selections breathed comfortably, often proceeding through moods from gently balladic to more muscular —although even the latter sections remained conversational more than confrontational.

The lack of a bass, or even a tuba or two, as Threadgill sometimes favors, was inconsequential; no further forward pulse or beefier bottom end was needed. Indeed, another player, of any stripe, would threaten to muddle the balance of the band, and the clarity of each member's distinctive contributions.

This pair of sets served as an informal warmup for The Trio's performance in March at the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tenn. Their concert is part of an impressive Threadgill festival-within-a-festival that includes him leading repertory bands devoted to some of his past projects, including Make a Move, Circus Circus, and Henry Threadgill's Zooid. And maybe 2024 will also finally bring a recording of The Trio—and, one hopes, further joint work by Iyer and Prieto, whose powerful chemistry merits a duo project.



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