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Johnathan Blake: Trion

Friedrich Kunzmann By

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The names making up this trio really don't need further explanation, seeing how they belong to some of the leading jazz musicians in their respective fields: for Trion , drummer and composer Johnathan Blake relies on the adventurousness of the highly acclaimed bass virtuoso Linda May Han Oh and saxophonist Chris Potter, who together form a chordless entity. The democratic fashion in which the three interact with each other here was initially supposed to be captured by naming the group the BOP Trio, in reference to each member's surname. Instead, the technical term trion was chosen as a title, referring to three atoms combined to form a single unit— much like the collaborative spirit on display.

Both sets, spread over two CD's and recorded live on January 21 and 22 of 2018, start with highly percussive drum intros. The first, "Calodendrum," flows into Potter's take on the Police original "Synchronicity 1." The highly energetic approach of the three makes a savage but controlled impression, placing the listener in the same room and right in front of the protagonists. Oh's solo is articulate and vibrantly accompanied by cymbals from all directions before being superseded by soaring tenor cries. Her contribution "Trope" is introduced by yet another expressive solo of the deep frequencies that ends up in her laying down the rhythmic and harmonic foundation with determined stabs to her double bass. She remains the star throughout her composition, while Potter adds a melodic dimension and Blake a percussive and dynamic one.

A trait shared by all the tunes presented on Trion is a compact compositional core that is developed upon extensively, often ending up in a running time of over ten minutes. In the traditional fashion, each instrumentalist takes a couple of measures to show off, while still impressively keeping in mind the general crescendo of the entire performance. The two main contributions by Blake, "High School Daze" and "No Bebop Daddy," reveal a groove-based attitude that highlights a different strength for each personality: Oh's confidence in delivering droning bass lines goes well with Potter's signature grooving saxophone sound, as he's demonstrated on multiple occasions, such as his recording Underground (Sunnyside, 2006).

Blake's versatile recording background with jazz greats trumpeter Tom Harrell and pianist Kenny Barron, to name just two, has made an exciting drummer out of him—always surprising and somewhat unconventional. While Chris Potter's South African-inspired and ostinato-based "Good Hope" finds Blake squeezing every last drop out of the Hi-hat, the other Potter input "Eagle" sees him laying out a smooth drive that elegantly accompanies Oh's laid-back basslines.

Trion presents a wonderful occasion to hear three virtuosos do what they do best in an uncompromising fashion and without additional modern production tricks. Rendered possible by the Jimmy and Dena Katz owned non-profit label Giant Step Arts, this release represents everything that makes jazz great.

Track Listing:
CD 1:
Calodendrum; Synchronicity 1; Trope (Linda Intro); Trope; One for Honor; High School Daze; No Bebop Daddy.
CD 2:
Bedrum; Good Hope; Eagle; Relaxing at the Camarillo; Blue Heart; West Berkley St.

Personnel: Johnathan Blake: drums; Chris Potter: tenor saxophone; Linda May Han Oh: bass.

Title: Trion | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Giant Step Arts

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