Trio 3: At This Time and Berne Concert

Clifford Allen By

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30-odd years ago, the lineup of Trio 3—a veritable supergroup—might have seemed surprising. By the mid-'70s, drummer Andrew Cyrille had fed polyrhythmic invention to Cecil Taylor's unit structures and tuned drums for ten years, while bassist Reggie Workman was known for his work with Coltrane and a number of Blue Note artists. Reedman Oliver Lake, who had relocated to New York from St. Louis via Paris, was a former member of the Black Artists Group, an AACM parallel organization. All of that history is important to recognizing where Trio 3 comes from and how their aesthetic, alternating between frenetic harrying salvos and sparser collective calls, might differ from a number of extremely capable "power trios" on the contemporary scene.

Trio 3 + Geri Allen
At This Time

One might think that adding a pianist to the equation would shake up the order enough that the longstanding group aesthetic is turned on its head. However, Trio 3 is an open enough group that the addition of a strong fourth personality shifts the dynamic rather than changing it. Two new recordings add, alternately, Geri Allen and Irene Schweizer to the proceedings. Allen has, in fact, become a regular participant, first joining the trio in 2008. On At This Time, her first recording with Trio 3, the fit is clear.

Allen's keen awareness of tense space and how to punctuate and drive it up a notch are evident from plucked piano strings, wooden knocks and, on Lake's "Long Melody," unsettling paper rustle. Alternately, her pointillist blues are laconic behind Lake's flute on "Tey" or rumbling gospel on "Lake's Jump." A consummate post-bop number, jaunty and with a hairy turnaround in its theme, the latter is a beautiful example of the work of this augmented trio. As the group spreads out into a modal plateau a minute in, delicate glassy mobiles orbit around Lake's acrid alto. Bubble and grit characterize his solo over a skipping beat, the rug constantly being tugged but never quite pulled out. Miniature runs, fiery spit and roiling pools from Allen's fingers flesh out the piece, her own statement an inner dialogue echoing, clambering and advancing into spiky floridity. She returns to ambiguous shading for Workman's taut pizzicato solo before the head returns. It's a downright tiring performance, in the best sense, and encompasses only part of what this unit can do.

Trio 3 + Irene Schweizer
Berne Concert

Swiss pianist Irene Schweizer worked with Cyrille in the latter half of the '80s, but Berne Concert is their first recording together in a full-band context. Though certainly both Schweizer and Allen have an affinity for Paul Bley, not to mention commanding the range of textures available both inside and outside the piano, they are more different than similar. Schweizer is a volcanic player whose motives have a painterly cast and rhythmic cells that, while recalling Cecil Taylor, are rougher and more impulsive. There's almost a clash of voices in Lake's composition "Flow" that opens the set—her rhythmic approach seems contradictory to the saxophonist's squirrely bebop, an epic command of the keyboard's breadth in rapid, thick gestures. Cyrille and Workman seem much more comfortable in this case, the drummer dissecting her phrases while maintaining extraordinary plasticity.

Unlike At This Time, Berne Concert presents duos and trios as well as the quartet—a piano-bass duet begins with tentative rumbling and delicate, tart chordal voicings as Schweizer follows Workman's pliant solemnity with gradually increasing drive. On "Timbral Interplay," a woven, minimal carpet of mallets and toms gives support to the pianist's contrasting network of phrase-rhythms, evidence of the rapport between Schweizer and Cyrille. Though a bit disjointed at times, Berne Concert presents four of the music's most creative figures going for broke—the result is tremendously exciting, even if not always successful.

Tracks and Personnel

At This Time

Tracks: Swamini; Gazzeloni; For Patrik L.; All Net; Current; Lake's Jump; Long Melody; Tey; Barbara's Rainbow; In the Realm... of the Child... of True Humanity Within (Gospel of Mary).

Personnel: Geri Allen: piano and voice; Oliver Lake: alto and soprano saxophones, flute; Reggie Workman: bass; Andrew Cyrille: drums.

Berne Concert

Tracks: Flow; R.I. Exchange 1; Aubade; Phrases; Ballad of the Silf; Timbral Interplay; WSLC.

Personnel: Irene Schweizer: piano; Oliver Lake: alto saxophone; Reggie Workman: bass; Andrew Cyrille: drums.


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