Versatile drummer Charles Rumback's third release under his name, Threes is a live session recorded at Constellation Chicago. It is also Rumback's first with a piano trio, and although the formation is conventional the music is nothing but that. Indeed, the four long pieces that make up the album are provocative in their inventiveness and passionate in their delivery.
For instance, the leader's "Salt Lines" is darkly hued with an undercurrent of lyricism and a thrillingly organic and vibrant theme. The subtle and clever interplay among the three musicians continuously transforms the melody in intriguing patterns out of which the individual solos naturally emerge. Bassist John Tate improvises with delightful eloquence never losing his mordant edge while pianist James Baker brings in modern classical influences.
Baker's phrases flow gracefully over the band's hypnotic refrains on the superb interpretation of pianist Andrew Hill's sublime "Erato." Rumback creates an intriguing ambience with his intricate rhythmic flourishes. His brushes rustle and cymbals gently crash as Baker and Tate take turns in the spotlight with erudite embellishments of the tune.
The band also is adept at creating dramatic atmospheres. On "Too Toney" Rumback's rolling drums, Baker's chiming keys and Tate's agile bass lines create a cinematic mood. The dynamic exchanges are tinged with melancholy but it is a wistfulness that has a bittersweet touch even a tad of whimsy.
The pièce de la resistance of this captivating album is the medley "Three Storey Birdhouse / Right Reasons." Not only it is the longest track, clocking in around 21 minutes it is also the most thrillingly complex and is a miniature reflection of the entire work. Rolling beats and sparse piano and bass notes set an expectant and haunting mood. Contemplative and angular three-way conversation follows that is stimulating and emotive. Delightful and ardent dissonance permeates the energetic and cerebral spontaneous performance.
Rumback shines on Threes both as a composer and a leader. The uniqueness of his originals matches each sideman's individual style. Rumback exquisitely and effectively balances the distinctive expressions of the group members with the seamless camaraderie that marks this brilliant record.
1. Salt Lines;
2. Three Storey Birdhouse / Right Reasons;
4. Too Toney.
Charles Rumback: drums;
Jim Baker: piano;
John Tate: bass.
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