An interesting trio comprised of a well-established veteran percussionist, Francisco Mela
, and two relative newcomers, bassist Kenneth Jimenez
and guitarist Drew Wesely
, the musicians behind Triangulate the Landscape
are engaged in that age-old challenge of free improvisation: how to create a substantial musical conversation that combines separate, independently-determined voices into a larger whole. While the three players aren't consistently successful in this regard, the album offers enough moments of enticing collective purpose to render the project worthwhile.
Mela has collaborated with a bunch of leading twenty-first century jazz artists, foremost of whom is Joe Lovano
, who has utilized the drummer's dynamic rhythmic acuity and impeccable chops on a number of his records, not the least of which are Folk Art
(Blue Note, 2009) and Bird Songs
(Blue Note, 2011). Mela has also headed some well-received albums of his own, including Cirio: Live at the Blue Note
(Half Note, 2008) and Melao
(Ayva Musica, 2006), all of which showcase his sympathetic ear and percussive fluidity. Jimenez's 2019 trio release Sublunary Minds
(Irazú Records) was an exceptional outing that skillfully straddled the line between composed and improvised modes. While Wesely is the upstart here, he's got a compelling Derek Bailey
-like sound that opens up rich possibilities for open-ended, mutual exploration, so the potential here is certainly promising.
The brief opener, "We Begin in the Center," suggests the modus operandi, with an emphasis on texture and feel over lyricism. Wesely's prickly shards stake out their terrain alongside Jimenez's intrepid plucking while Mela supports the two with a steady pulse, before the guitar and bass shift in a more languid direction, and Mela changes up his approach to offer more punctuated interjections. The next track, "Graveled Air," is a lengthier exploration at over eight minutes, and it offers extensive engagement between Jimenez and Wesely, with Mela's role a bit more subdued, looking for ways to fill in the gaps. Jimenez's facility on his instrument, whether bowed or pizzicato, is impressive, and it gives him a wide range of ways to goad and respond to Wesely, whose own imaginative techniques are similarly striking.
Most of the album's eleven cuts feature all three musicians, but curiously it's the three duo tracks that may be the strongest. The natural rapport between Jimenez and Wesely is obvious on "Follow the Leader," where they effectively shadow and spark each other throughout the piece's five-minute duration; and Mela's duo improvisations with Jimenez ("Pa'l Monte") and Wesely ("Fragile Movement") possess that elusive quality of an emerging conversation, with the crucial give-and-take needed to hint at unfolding ideas.
Other tracks, though, are a bit more static, with less inherent movement and development. On occasion Mela seems unsure of what to contribute, sticking to fixed patterns that seem disconnected from the others' expressions; and some pieces, like "Premonition" and "Hideously Serene," are too short to take shape fully as fleshed-out dialogues. But notwithstanding a few shortcomings, these artists do bring a lot to the table, and their potent moments of convergence point toward the potential for future collaborations to bear even more fruit.
We Begin in the Center; Graveled Air; Follow the Leader; Scattered Moments; White Screen; Fragile Movement;
Hideously Serene; Premonition; Pa’l Monte; Pettish Tears; We Finish In Between.