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Friday, February 26, 2010

Superb piano trios

Piano trio albums are part of the more standard line-ups in "serious" jazz, in the tradition of Paul Bley and Bill Evans, bridging between jazz and classical impressionism and romanticism, and these two icons have been copied a zillion times, especially in the hotel lounge tradition. Luckily, the format is still open to innovation, to creative intensity and unexpected surprises. The two albums reviewed here are part of this realm of new possibilities. Both trios also fully act as trios with the three musicians improvising on equal footing, and all three creating something that is much more than the sum of its parts.

Sebastiano Meloni, Adriano Orrù & Tony Oxley - Improvised Music For Trio (Biground, 2010) ****½

Sebastiano Meloni on piano, Adriano Orrù on double bass, and Tony Oxley on drums. The latter is possibly best known for his work with Evan Parker, Derek Bailey, Cecil Taylor and John McLaughlin. The Italian musicians received a classical and a jazz education, which explains their versatility and the unclassifiable nature of the album (under "Chamber Music" on eMusic, although they often make genre-errors). Anyway, the album consists of fourteen improvisations, and of a refreshing intensity and sonority. The three musicians do not have to get recourse to lots (yes some) extended techniques to have novelties in every track. Lyricism and stubborn dissonance go hand in hand, melody and atonal improvisation merge, emotional power is unleashed through free form. The music has an intensity which has nothing to do with chamber music: the sweetness and accessibility you would expect from the genre are hard to find, but instead you get a captivating focus and ever-changing inventiveness, coupled with incredible subtlety and authentic feelings. Really strong.

Listen and download from eMusic.

Buy from Instantjazz.

Rodrigo Pinheiro, Hernani Faustino & Gabriel Ferrandini - Red Trio (Clean Feed, 2010) ****

The Portuguese RED Trio is Rodrigo Pinheiro on piano, Hernani Faustino on bass, and Gabriel Ferrandini on drums.The intensity is comparable to the previous album, the music not entirely: it is more avant-jazz, darker, much darker.

The album starts with nervous half-muted piano playing, agitated bass and drums, full of tension till the very end. The scene for the second piece, "Flat", is set by the heavy plucking on the bass, in the style of Paul Rogers, full of emotional power, with great attention the sound, less to the rhythm or melody, a scene which is dark and foreboding, accentuated by light percussive elements, and minimal piano touches. "Coda, Static", is light, open and again quite intense in its slow building around silence, using sparse notes and brush-strokes to create a whole world.

"Quick Sand" is an absolute horror of a piece, a sonic nightmare, but then one that is of such a high musical level, that it really makes you shiver: piano, bass and drums create a wall of unnatural sounds, now high volume and monstrous, then low volume and eery. "Timewise" is more uptempo, almost upbeat, but again with a sense of urgency and immediacy that is out of the common: they play as if every note, every single sound counts, and then with high relevance: they are heavily accentuated, placed with precision in the evolving soundscape. It is incredible what kind of emotional depth and sonic visions this trio creates, out of nowhere, out of nothing.

Listen at eMusic.

Buy from Instantjazz.

Watch a clip of RED Trio

© stef