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Borderlands Trio: Stephan Crump / Kris Davis / Eric McPherson: Wandersphere

Dan McClenaghan BY

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Borderlands Trio: Stephan Crump / Kris Davis / Eric McPherson: Wandersphere
It begins so quietly, whispering out of silence like a ghost. The creaking door of Stephan Crump's arco bass, the hiss of Eric McPherson's brushes, the parsimonious delicacy of Kris Davis' piano notes. This is what opens Disc one of this two CD outing by the Borderlands Trio. The tune's following half hour's worth of improvisational expressionism—an exercise in filling the vacuum with free flowing musical ideas—gathers momentum, like an incoming storm, or maybe a colony of microscopic organisms reaching a population density that allows it to flourish, to thrive. To mutate to a level of success that will ensure its survival.

Did bassist Crump really ponder the workings of mycorrhizae prior to the studio date that resulted in this nearly two hours of music that follows its own unpredictable path via the homeostatic workings of this flexible, reactive trio? Peter Margasak, the writer of Wandersphere's liner note, says as much about Crump's pre-recording mindset, explaining that mycorrhizae are "the fungi that possess a symbiotic relationship with plant life that's helped ensure the survival of forests for centuries." So Wandersphere may be the first jazz album inspired, at least in part, by fungi.

"An Invitation To Disappear" is the second tune of CD1. It and all of the sounds here contain moments of moving slowly, at the speed of forest roots absorbing nutrients from the soil (with a little help from its fungi friends), a natural, inexorable process providing a good deal of beauty for listeners not beset with short attention spans. Every note is a surprise, and every note seems inevitable, and every note fits into a bigger picture. And like "Super-Organism," "The Invitation To Disappear" moves from an initial near dormancy to full spring bloom, over the course of its twenty minute playing time.

Listening to "Old Growth," the forty-plus minute tune that opens the CD2, reveals (it is a cumulative thing, coming after experiencing CD1) an extraordinarily egoless ensemble, Zen-focused on collective creation.

The generous expanse of music on Wandersphere seems steeped in a nondenominational spirituality. All good music does that, most especially freely improvised explorations that find the truth, or something like it. That's how the Borderlands Trio rolls on Wandersphere, addressing the cosmos and/or the dieties, or the evolution of salubrious subterranean collaborations of fungi and tree roots.

Track Listing

Wnadersphere I, CD 1: Super Organism; An Invitation to Disappear. Wandersphere II, CD 2: Old Growth; Possible Pictures.`


Stephan Crump: bass; Kris Davis: piano; Eric McPherson: drums.

Album information

Title: Wandersphere | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Intakt Records

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