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Song, Newton & Bynum: Trio Ex Nihilo

AAJ Staff By

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At its best, improvisation revolves around a shared vocabulary. Traditional jazz often invokes a collection of rhythmic patterns, chord changes, and corresponding scales dictated by protocol. In the case of free improvisation, the field is thrown wide open—leaving the improvisers to their own devices, so to speak. Trio Ex Nihilo, a set of Boston players, documents a particular vocabulary shared by three individuals with local and global experience. (Ironically, their most recent efforts come to us via the Dutch Buzz label.) Trumpeter Bynum has worked with Anthony Braxton, Joe Fonda, and a number of other players; Newton made his mark with Debris and moved on to groups with Braxton, Ken Vandermark, and Joe Morris; and cellist Song has piled up several projects with Matt Turner (ironically, he takes over Turner's role on cello for this recording).

The traditional roles of the trumpet, cello, and drums undergo conscious redefinition on Trio Ex Nihilo. Bynum is as likely to use his instrument for birdlike lines as he is for floating decoration. The trumpet often assumes a microtonal voice-like role in his hands. And rather than playing the cello like a lot of players do—devoting primary attention to the bass line—Song prefers to go for harmonic twists and jabs, mixed with the occasional stark melody. And Newton is anything but a timekeeper on Trio Ex Nihilo. He takes his drum kit and coaxes from it a very sparse collection of accents and colors.

The utter commitment of these players to skirt familiar territory in order to forge new ground means that they're constantly taking risks. Some of their adventures work better than others, for sure—but this trio generally keeps up solid forward momentum on their travels. Relative to a lot of free improv groups, they stick to a pared-down interplay. Often two players will engage in dialogue while the third sits out. And when they're in full swing (so to speak; and that's a rare event in the literal sense) they keep it deliberate, understated, and focused.


Track Listing: Ex Nihilo; The Back of My Mind; Scurrilous; Schwa; Turning the Wheel; Feng Shui Nightmare; Folk Song #8; Blister Pack; All Ways Are Up (for A. Stieglitz).

Personnel: Taylor Ho Bynum: trumpet, flugelhorn, pocket trumpet, trumpophone; Jeff Song: cello; Curt Newton: drums.

Title: Trio Ex Nihilo | Year Released: 2001 | Record Label: Buzz Records

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