Chance meetings, in a French café with Théo Ceccaldi
, and on the London-to-Paris Eurostar with Jim Hart
, prompted Daniel Erdmann
to found one of contemporary jazz's more unusual trios. The convergence of violin/viola, vibraphone and tenor saxophone is, perhaps, unique in the jazz firmament but, as the trio's fine debut A Short Moment of Zero G
(BMC Records, 2016) demonstrated, the marriage of brass, metal, wood and string is an enticing one. With Won't Put No Flag Out
, the trio picks up where it left off, where short pieces of varying moods and character highlight the pronounced chemistry at play. If it ain't broke... right? And yet, there has been evolution in Daniel Erdmann's Velvet Revolution.
All three musicians, to varying degrees, provide rhythmic stimuli; that has been the case since the trio first got together in 2015. Since then, however, the trio has occasionally expanded to a quartet, called Daniel Erdmann's Velvet Jungle, by the inclusion of Cyril Atef
or Samuel Rohrer
on drums and electronics. Their additional impulses have made a lasting impression on the trio, with the metronomic chime of metal bars, gruff tenor riffing and intensely bowed viola importing greater rhythmic drive than on its debut. Then there are the West African colors, inspired by a visit Hart made to Ghana, which have brought another element into the equation.
Each song, however, is a mini world of its own. There is the dark-hued lyricism of the title track, with Erdmann stretching out over a plucked viola motif which evokes "I Heard it Through the Grapevine." A thumping, dance rhythm pervades the infectious, "Except the Velvet Flag," which features a violin solo of liberating energy. More angular compositions, like "Bring Me Moon" and the aptly impressionistic vignette "Abstract Love," reveal a more experimental side to the trio. And when the musicians slip the tightly interwoven patterns, the individual soloing is exhilarating. Hart's dazzling, Art Tatum
-esque intervention on "Tigresse," and Erdmann's searching solo on the impressive "Kauas pilvat karkavaat" are perhaps the pick of the bunch.
The trio flirts more overtly with jazz tradition on the boppish unison head of "Justine," which gives way to a mazy Erdmann solo, buoyed by Ceccaldi's strumming and Hart's tango-ish, percussive patterns. Harold Arlen's "Over the Rainbow" is reinvented as a sotto voce lullaby, while "Outcast" switches smoothly from close-knit interplay to freer expression.
At times, the merging of such distinct voices creates strangely unfamiliar, yet alluring polyphony, as on the somewhat spooky "Justine, Again." European classical and West African traditions come together in "Give the Soul Some Rest," an arresting chamber piece dedicated to the late Moriba Koita, the Malian n'goni griot who, in addition to collaborating with the giants of African music, also recorded with Hank Jones
and Dee Dee Bridgewater
. Feverish rhythms contrast with mellifluous tenor saxophone on "Fuel of Life," a satisfyingly anthemic set-closer.
An engaging, and at times brilliant, mosaic, Erdmann, Ceccaldi and Hart are open to a world of rhythms, harmonies, textures and melody, whatever their provenance. Fundamentally, it is jazz, but they don't raise a flag about it.
Won’t Put No Flag Out; Except the Velvet Flag; La Tigresse; Give the Soul Some Rest; Justine; Over the Rainbow; Abstract Love Song; Outcast; Bring Me Moon; Kauas pilvat karkavaat; Justine, Again; The Fuel of Life.
Théo Ceccaldi: viola; Jim Hart: percussion (11).